Tiktok’s Unique Impact on Gen Z Politics


Maisie Zipfel and Olivia Ballet

When it comes to politics and the overall awareness of the world, Generation Z has a unique advantage that no other has had the privilege of experiencing during their adolescent years. With access to unlimited resources and information thanks to many social media outlets, Generation Z has gained the opportunity to educate themselves and form their own opinions. Over the past year, TikTok, an entertainment app created in China, has become increasingly influential to young voters. Many political parties and groups with unified political viewpoints have taken to TikTok to express their beliefs and the importance of voting. These groups, including “Barbs for Bernie,” “Settle for Biden,” and “Trump 2020” have a very influential impact on many new and younger voters.

The political group “Barbs for Bernie” emerged in December of 2019 and trended on Twitter for three months before making its way to Tiktok in March of 2020. As soon as the upcoming slogan reached the screens of popular creators, those same creators began using the slogan and hashtag to spread their favorable views of Bernie Sanders and his campaign. Rising Tiktok star Emmuhlu (aka “Barb” to her followers) became the unofficial leader of the Tiktok group and used her platform to show her love of female rapper Nicki Minaj, Bernie Sanders, and Trump haters. She, along with her fellow “Barbs,” (a term coined for Minaj’s fans) encouraged each other to cyberbully well-known Trump-supporting or conservative Tiktok stars and reached far beyond TikTok, sending emails to the colleges of many such popular creators with false rumors about them. This popular slogan then soon died off when a video depicting Emmuhlu using racial slurs with her friends surfaced and quickly erupted on the platform. After the release of this video, Emmuhlu was quickly “canceled” by the Tiktok community. Soon after this, Bernie dropped out of the Presidential race, officially ending the use of the popular slogan.

Following former Vice President Joe Biden’s win of the Democratic Nomination of the President for the United States, a new popular hashtag “Settle For Biden” began trending. The group is described as “a grassroots group of former Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders supporters who recognize Joe Biden’s flaws but know that our nation will not survive four more years of Donald Trump,” as stated on the homepage of the Settle for Biden website. The creators of Settle for Biden write, “We don’t like all of Joe Biden’s policies but we recognize that he is running on the most progressive platform in American history and that not supporting him would literally endanger the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans.” For roughly a month, “Settle for Biden” was one of the most popular hashtags used on Tiktok to show support for the presidential candidate until a new account coined “Tiktok for Biden” was created in October. The latter group consists of about 200 Tiktok creators, all voicing support for Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris in the upcoming election. As stated in their first Tiktok, their goals are to “Register young people to vote, raise awareness about the election, and to eventually put Joe Biden in the White House.” It is said that they will be posting content related to the current political issues and the upcoming election. In order to broaden their horizons and expand their impact, they have even created their very own website where they explain their purpose and sell merchandise to fundraise money for the Biden campaign. The merchandise includes the slogans: “Gen-Z for Biden, Gays for Biden, Voting is Cool, and You Can’t Spell Biden Without Bi.”

Trump 2020 is the last of the major political groups showing their ideals on TikTok. This is one of the oldest political groups on TikTok, as they have exhibited their support for President Donald Trump since the 2016 Presidential Election. Although for the president’s first three years of presidency, his supporters were not as active in their promotion efforts, they have been extremely strong with their views in light of the upcoming election. Many Republican/Conservative and Trump specific groups have emerged and banned together to show their support and political beliefs. The Trump 2020 group of Tiktokers are arguably the most scrutinized from outside parties and creators. This is most likely due to their headstrong views and their tendency to debate other Tiktokers and attempt to sway others from their more liberal views.

While these three groups may seem merely trivial and lacking in impact, social media is currently the most influential platform for GenZ as a whole. While their methods may be harsh and at times immature, they bring political matters into social media, forming and influencing young people’s and voter’s minds.