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Did Taylor Swift really cause a voter registration spike?

Voter influencing.
Voter influencing.
Image: Reuters/Steve Marcus
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Campaigns may spend piles of money and devote thousands of volunteers to register people to vote. But, it’s possible that just one Instagram post from Taylor Swift has been just as, if not more, effective.

After the pop-star, who usually stays away from politics, posted a photo of herself with a long caption explaining why she would vote against Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee’s Republican candidate for Senate (“Her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me,” Swift wrote of Blackburn) and urging people to register on Vote.org, the website saw a massive hike in registrations. Buzzfeed was first to report the news of the increase, which spiked notably in Tennessee.

There’s no way to directly attribute Swift’s post to the hike. That said, between Sunday night, when Swift sent our her Instagram post, and Tuesday morning (a period of less than 36 hours), Vote.org saw 105,000 new registrations, in comparison to about 190,000 registrations during the entire month of September.

A number of factors influence voter spikes, Kamari Guthrie, director of communications for vote.org told Quartz in an email. Multiple US states, including Tennessee, have their voter registration deadlines on Tuesday, Oct. 9. The vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, whose confirmation process has been said to energize voters, happened on Saturday.

However, the website says that Swift’s post helped bring out young people. About 64,000 out of the 105,000 people who registered roughly in the 36 hours after the post were voters between 18 and 29 years old (these numbers grew to more than 100,000 and 165,000, respectively, by noon on Tuesday). In the two days leading up to the Tennessee registration deadline in October 2016, which was a presidential election year, the site registered considerably less voters: over 83,000 in total.

“We’re especially happy to see that because we know voting is habit-forming,” Vote.org said in a statement. “Statistically, a young person who votes in 2018 is 55% more likely to vote again in 2020.”

Swift’s post hints that she knew what kind of influence she could have on this particular cohort. “So many intelligent, thoughtful, self-possessed people have turned 18 in the past two years and now have the right and privilege to make their vote count. But first you need to register, which is quick and easy to do,” she wrote.

Following her post, Donald Trump said he liked her music “about 25% less,” while the far-right internet accused her of betrayal.