Tumblr Takes the White House: How Social Media Is Changing Politics


President Barack Obama has made a further addition to his student debt initiative aimed at alleviating economic strain on students in America. As a result, he has a number of PR goals he needs to fulfill in order to make his executive order fully successful as political strategy; politics are are a business, policy is the capitol, votes and conveniently referable backgrounds is the revenue, and politicians do not benefit from anonymous donations. Basically, if no one knows, what’s the point? This brings us to the question of how modern political parties, organizations, and individuals gain access to their audience. Social media, apps, and online networking platforms of all sorts are transforming everything up to and including politics, and there’s been more than a few studies showing just how integrated it’s becoming.

The White House and advisory staff’s method in this specific case looks to draw in the right audience using the correct means to most easily and effectively relay key information, and for college students, a population comprised of voting aged adults, this means a live Q&A on Tumblr. There’s even gifs on the whitehouse.gov page linking to the page.

Tumblr is ideal for a few reasons. First and foremost is that it makes Obama look modern, or as he says, “hip” enough to appeal to students using a platform commonplace for that generation. He’s not trying to call a cell phone with a rotary, and he’s playing to his audience’s preferences. It’s tactics like these that can help a political party or organization appeal better to certain demographics, or depending on the medium, to a wider audience than those Americans more likely to visit whitehouse.gov or read the news.

Indeed, according to Gallup, there is a tendency for young Americans to identify more often with the Democratic party than the Republican party, with eighteen to twenty-nine year old Americans showing 53 percent in Democratic or Democratic leaning affiliation, and 35 percent affiliating themselves with Republicans or leaning Republican. A more likely explanation for this is that younger Americans tend to have more left leaning views on social issues such as same-sex marriage — especially since this tendency dates back to 1995, long before Tumblr and Twitter. The president’s upcoming  meeting of the masses on Tumblr aside, there are almost infinite examples of how politics are being changed and shaped.