Some of them are too young to vote. Some of them don’t even live in the United States.
But for many, TikTok has become the platform of choice to not only discuss the presidential election, but also to advocate for a candidate.
“This election is not just about politics, it’s about decency and it’s about what we want in this country and it’s so much bigger than traditional politics. … Teens are realizing that our rights come from politics, for better or for worse,” said Aidan Kohn-Murphy, 16, a TikTok user from Washington, D.C. “I think people who are younger than 18 are realizing how they can be politically and civically engaged even though they can’t vote.”
On the app, a swath of users’ profile pictures have recently changed to an image of the words “Gen Z for Biden,” sandwiched between a rainbow and a small red heart — the logo of a newly formed group advocating for the election of Joe Biden called “TikTok for Biden.” The group, formed by Aidan and fellow content creator Brendan Radecki, 18, of Oklahoma, is composed of about 350 TikTok creators and stars with a collective following of approximately 150 million, according to the founders, who say they are raising money, phone banking and holding events to help elect Biden this November.
“Your age doesn’t stop you from being involved in what’s going on today and trying to get other people involved in what’s going on today. … Just because you can’t vote yet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be involved,” said Julia Juarez, 16, of Tennessee, who is a member of the leadership team for TikTok for Biden.
While a portion of those who are creating content for the TikTok for Biden account are too young to cast a ballot, the group — which formed after the first presidential debate on Sept. 29 but began posting publicly after the vice presidential debate on Oct. 7 — has seen rapid growth in this short time and has already amassed more than 729,000 followers.
Politics has always been a topic of discussion on TikTok, but it has exploded in popularity as Election Day nears. Political hashtags rack up millions of views — but hashtags supporting either presidential candidate dwarf most others, with views in the billions. The hashtag #Biden2020 has more than 3.5 billion views while the hashtag #Trump2020 has more than 12.6 billion views. Neither the Trump campaign nor the Biden campaign has an official TikTok account.
“I learned so much from TikTok and I feel like it’s just a really good place for younger people to get a really good range on how people stand and why they stand for specific things,” said Gilbert Dabady, 15, of Massachusetts, a member of “TikTok for Biden.”
Members of the leadership of “TikTok for Biden,” who spoke to NBC News, said the group’s mission is to raise funds for the Biden campaign, down-ballot candidates and organizations like Black Lives Matter, in addition to advocating for young people who are eligible to vote to both register (in states where the deadline hasn’t passed yet) and cast their ballot for Biden. They also plan to hold phone banking events.
While “TikTok for Biden” is not the only political account on the platform, the account’s rapidly growing support might reflect the attitudes of younger millennials and Gen Z (generally covering those born from 1997 to the early 2010s) as exemplified in recent polling data.
A national online NBC News/Quibi poll of millennial and Generation Z voters conducted after the first presidential debate and after Trump tested positive for the coronavirus showed 69 percent of Gen Z voters and 54 percent of millennials having negative impressions of the president.
The poll also showed Gen Z voters prefer Democratic nominee Biden over Trump by more than 40 points, 64 percent to 22 percent, while millennial voters back Biden by 14 points, 50 percent to 36 percent.
Historically, younger voters have had lower turnout, but the 2018 midterm elections marked a modern high for youth voter turnout, according to Pew Research.
Among young people, Biden’s reception has been generally lukewarm, highlighted by movements like “Settle for Biden.” As the election has drawn closer, members of “TikTok for Biden” said they feel it's important to get Gen Z not only enthusiastic about Biden but also his platform.
“We get these comments on our account saying, ‘Are you pushing us to support Biden or settle for him?’ That’s kind of ridiculous to me. Even if Biden is not our dream candidate, we know he’s so much better than Trump,” Aidan said. “We need to do everything we can to get him elected.”
Similar accounts supporting the president also exist. An account called “Teens for Trump” has a following of just over 6,200. A request for an interview sent to the account by NBC News was not returned.
These are far from the only accounts advocating for the presidential candidates. Political content houses, such as the Conservative Hype House, which has 1.5 million followers, and the Democrat Hype House, which has just over 192,000 followers, (and other variations of those accounts such as “The Republican Hype House” or “The Liberal Hype House”) are collaborative accounts where creators not only advocate for candidates but also fact check, post news updates and act as social media pundits for Gen Z, according to The New York Times.
Both sides of the aisle share a mission for getting Gen Z educated and involved in politics.
“It's kind of our mission to get Gen Z more involved because I think people don’t realize how much politics plays a part in your daily life and every decision that you make. It’s evolved around politics in a way,” Liam Rafizadeh, 20, manager of The Republican Hype House, told NBC News in a recent interview.
Rafizadeh added that while TikTok is meant to pique people’s interests with fun content, he feels the platform shouldn’t be anyone’s primary source of information.
"I wouldn't say get your news from TikTok, get your news from Twitter," he said. "Our goal is for people to do their own research. ... I would never be like: 'I saw this on TikTok. It's true.' Anyone can have a TikTok."
The members of “TikTok for Biden,” said, for them, TikTok encompasses the age group they most hope to reach and is the best place for them to advocate for electing Biden.
“It's so important to make political content and watch political content because it’s truly getting yourself educated about what’s going on in the world,” said Brooklynne Webb, 16, a TikTok star who is a member of “TikTok for Biden,” despite living in Victoria, British Columbia.
Brooklynne said it was important to her to join the group and advocate for Biden because of the effect the United States has on the rest of the world, especially when it comes to matters like climate change.
In addition to climate change, the members of “TikTok for Biden” said the issues that are most important to them include health care, systemic inequities and racism, and LGBTQ issues.
While the members of “TikTok for Biden” say their primary goal is to help the former vice president get elected, they hope regardless of the election’s outcome, they’re able to show the power of young people.
“We are here to show adults and to prove to ourselves that young people, even if they can’t vote, and even if they’re young and they can vote, they can be in politics and they can make a serious difference,” Aidan said.