The Electoral Commission Are Harnessing Snapchat to Net Young Voters

Marketing Week
Engaging with younger voters is an ongoing conundrum across the world, and the UK is no exception. Despite the fact that twice the expected number of younger voters turned out to cast their ballots in the EU referendum last year, it still wasn't enough to stem the tide of the leave vote, which was led by an older demographic. The May elections in 2015 saw a 43% turnout among 18-24 year olds, and a 54% turnout for 25-34 year olds.

Each time this happens, the same argument tends to get rolled out - the government and opposing political parties simply aren't doing enough to connect to younger voters. For the local elections in May (which have historically had a young voter turnout even lower than the above examples), the Electoral Commission are trying out a new tack - Snapchat.

Teaming up with developers working for the company, the Commission have created a Geofilter which reminds users that they need to register before April 17th if they want to vote. The filter is particularly aimed at 16 and 17-year-olds in Scotland, since this is the first time they've been able to vote in council elections. Scotland have always fared better than other parts of the UK for young turnout, and adding 16 and 17-year-olds to the register is being regarded by some as a move which should be applied to the UK at large.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms have introduced tools in the past encouraging people to register and vote, but this is the first time that the Electoral Commission has worked directly with a platform like Snapchat. Hillary Clinton worked with them during her electoral campaign last year, but for obvious reasons her Snapchat approach was much more geared to marketing her image.

As much as British politicians could benefit from communicating better with potential youth voters, the larger problem is that the necessary information just isn't reaching them. Recent polling suggested that not even 50% of Scottish people even realise that under-18s are now eligible to vote. Across the UK, a mere 69% of 18-24 year-olds are actually registered to vote at all.

When you look at it in those terms, this is a small step, and it probably won't make much measurable difference, but it demonstrates that the British government are at least trying to understand how to better implement social media. Voting should be the least political thing a person does, but among the youth it's long been disregarded as pointless and ineffectual, as 'uncool'. Snapchat isn't going to change that, but the attitude which brought this idea about may well do.

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