Chat the Vote

The 2016 presidential election was the first time that chat applications were used to register voters and spark political conversation. A new report released today explores these experiments in voter engagement, offering an in-depth view into the role of chat apps in promoting civic participation during the election and getting people to the polls.

The report “Chat the Vote” examines the ways in which chat platforms – including Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Kik, LINE, Viber, Amazon Echo and others – delivered voter information and election news, and helped people register to vote. It also explores the use of chat apps by election candidates, revealing how Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump used these platforms to attract support and encourage turnout.

Produced by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and authored by digital media consultant and Block Party CEO Eytan Oren, the report provides important lessons for journalists, media companies, technologists, civic leaders and politicians exploring new methods of leveraging technology to inform and reach voters. It also provides an early look at emerging experiments in voter engagement with a view to the future.

“As the nation grapples with ways to improve voter turnout and increase engagement around key issues, chat apps are emerging as an important avenue to connect with an audience of millions,” said Luz Gomez, Knight Foundation director for learning and impact. “This report documents the growing influence of these chat platforms on our politics, revealing their ability to inform and engage audiences, and also their potential as spaces to experiment with new ways of strengthening civic participation.”