Taylor Swift uses social media muscle to boost voter sign-ups

In a lengthy post on Instagram, the 28-year-old Taylor Swift says while she has been ‘reluctant’ to share her political views in the past, she has changed her mind. (AFP pic)

NEW YORK: Pop music luminary Taylor Swift’s decision to wade into electoral politics for the first time on Sunday has driven a spike in online voter registration, particularly among young people, according to the website Vote.org.

The nonprofit site, which helps people register online, reported more than 250,000 new registrations since Swift posted a message on Instagram endorsing two Democratic candidates in her home state of Tennessee and urging people to register.

By comparison, the site recorded 57,000 new registrations in all of August and 190,000 last month. More than 60% of the registrations since Sunday were among voters between 18 and 29 years old, an increase the site said was likely prompted by Swift’s post.

“This is a pretty incredible, off-the-charts event,” said Raven Brooks, the chief operating officer for Vote.org.

Vote.org acknowledged it was not possible to measure the direct impact of Swift’s move, but Brooks noted the surge in young voters was in line with Swift’s youthful fan base. Swift’s Instagram post had recommended people visit the website Vote.org.

Swift’s enormous reach – she has 112 million Instagram followers and 84 million Twitter followers – underscores the way celebrities can leverage their online presence by sending messages instantaneously to millions of fans.

Grammy winner Rihanna in an Instagram post urged fans to register to vote on Tuesday – the last day in 14 states for citizens to register. It was not the first time Rihanna has waded into US politics, although the singer is from Barbados and ineligible to vote because she is not an American citizen.

Swift was scheduled to open the 2018 American Music Awards on Tuesday evening with her first awards show performance in almost three years, the show announced. She will perform “I Did Something Bad” from her multi-platinum album, “reputation.”

Polls show the US Senate contest between Democrat Phil Bredesen and Republican Marsha Blackburn, a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, virtually tied in a state Trump won by 16 points in 2016.

Swift, who has largely eschewed politics even as she has become one of pop music’s global superstars, told her followers she could not support Blackburn due to the congresswoman’s record on women’s issues and gay rights.

Politics can be dicey for artists such as Swift with roots – and fans – in country music, the dominant genre of red state America.

President Donald Trump on Monday dismissed Swift as an uninformed voter. “Let’s just say I like Taylor’s music about 25% less now, OK?,” he told reporters.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee also chimed in saying her endorsements “won’t impact the election unless we allow 13 yr old girls to vote.”

Many celebrities identify as liberals, and Democrat Hillary Clinton enjoyed broad support from actors, musicians and other popular figures in 2016.

The most notable celebrity to support Trump may be the rapper Kanye West, who will have lunch with the president at the White House on Thursday.

West and Swift engaged in a years-long feud after West interrupted Swift’s acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.