A small group of volunteers for a political action committee founded by billionaire Tom Steyer is using dating apps to improve voter turnout.
Kristi Johnston, the national press secretary for NextGen America, described the benefits of using dating apps to reach potential voters during an April 4 interview with WKOW-TV.
Johnston insisted that the organization is not advocating for a particular candidate or political party, but is focused on increasing voter turnout overall.
“We started dating app organizing in 2020 when our efforts completely went virtual because of the pandemic,” Johnston told the outlet. “We see that a lot of young people are still on Tinder, on Hinge, on Bumble, so we wanted to make sure that we were covering all of our bases and meeting people in every space that we could.”
Johnston herself assisted with outreach efforts in Wisconsin ahead of the spring election despite living in California. She specifically targeted Madison, Green Bay and Milwaukee, registering new voters and finding volunteers for Next Gen. America. As with a traditional purpose dating profile, Johnston designed her’s to maximize potential responses.
“I do have a picture in a cheesehead,” she said. “And, I have one prompt that says: ‘Aaron Rodgers might leave you, but I never would.’”
Once matched with dating app users, the 27-year-old would find ways to bring up “reproductive rights being possibly stripped away from young people in Wisconsin” and send her matches a link to a NextGen America pledge to vote in the upcoming Supreme Court election.
“In terms of checking the pulse of the political landscape in Wisconsin right now, there’s no other way to do that than being on a dating app,” she added.
Johnston and 20 volunteers – three men and 17 women – for NextGen America from different parts of the country made contact with more than 500 potential voters, per MSNBC. Johnston rejected the idea that her “get out the vote” effort was the equivalent of catfishing.
As a result of Wisconsin’s spring election, the state’s supreme court flipped from a conservative majority to a liberal majority with the election of Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protawiecz.
NextGen America has not limited its voter registration effort to only virtual outreach. The Cincinnati Enquirer reports the “liberal youth turnout organization” has dominated college campuses of this battleground state in midterm and presidential elections, with organizers arranging celebrity visits, installing bouncy houses and wearing costumes to draw attention to voter registration tables.”
“NextGen launched a statewide tour this week, with plans to ramp up as Election Day nears,” the outlet reported on March 11. “Speakers include abortion patients, local hospital staff and Planned Parenthood workers. Some local celebrities may appear at future events.”
NextGen America was founded in 2013 by Steyer, a former Democratic presidential candidate, “because he believed that young people had the power to determine a new, brighter direction for our country on every single major issue that matters,” according to the organization’s website. The political action committee reports registering 1.4 million young voters and transporting 4.5 million people to the polls in 2020.
“At NextGen, we know it’s always taken the courage and imagination of young people to make our country tackle the biggest challenges we face,” said the organization. “Our nation needs that courage again to solve climate change, racial injustice, runaway inequality and to save democracy itself.”