Like an animatronic snake, Taylor Swift has shed her apolitical skin and announced her support for Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections. And while she's — surprise, surprise — already being picked apart for her choices, her big
reputation revelation has led to a massive spike in new voter registrations nationwide.
How massive? According to the nonpartisan website Vote.org, 413,691 people registered to vote between October 7, the day of Swift's big announcement, and October 11. Notably, 65% of them were under 30 — the demographic least likely to head to the polls.
To compare, the website registered 56,669 new voters in August and 190,178 in September. Because it's a nonpartisan organization, Vote.org doesn't record people's political affiliation when they register.
So, who are the young people behind this sea change? Some of them are young women who, just like Swift, have kept their politics to themselves out of fear of how others will react — until now. Candice Westbrook, 18, is a Democrat in Texas who says Swift has helped her gain the confidence to speak up.
"I’ve always been a political person, but due to pressure from many different outside sources, I've always been afraid to voice how I feel about things out of fear of judgment," Westbrook told Refinery29. "However, when I saw Taylor's post, something changed. She gets hate for breathing wrong, so to see her speak so openly and eloquently about what matters to her despite how others might look at her made all the difference. All it takes is one person to change everything."
Perhaps the most common sentiment expressed among the "Taylor Swift voters" is that they're tired of seeing young women not being taken seriously in politics. That's why Swift fans descended on Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, when he tweeted, "So @taylorswift13 has every right to be political but it won’t impact election unless we allow 13-year-old girls to vote."
Perhaps Huckabee didn't get the memo that Swift's fans have grown up. "Don't be so dismissive," 19-year-old political activist Rachel Gonzalez tweeted back at him. "When Taylor Swift got famous, I was 10 years old. That was 2008. I am 19 now, and I'm voting against every Republican on my ballot."
“You need a celebrity to tell you who to vote for.”— Rachel R. Gonzalez (@RachelRGonzalez) October 11, 2018
I never knew it was terrible to encourage people to vote, but I guess that's the GOP for you.
I have studied and met the people I am going to vote for in November.
Can't wait to vote for Senator Claire McCaskill! pic.twitter.com/KtSHwnHev6
Swift's fans are also pushing back against the idea that celebrities, or people who are encouraged by them, are thoughtless voters. "I never knew it was terrible to encourage people to vote, but I guess that's the GOP for you," Gonzalez tweeted. "I have studied and met the people I am going to vote for in November." Gonzalez is voting for Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri.
The pop star made her announcement to her 112 million followers on Instagram, voicing her support for Tennessee Democrats Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for the U.S. House of Representatives. "In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now," Swift wrote. "I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country."
Vote.org saw a large increase of voters in Tennessee, where Swift votes: Over 6,200 of the 7,554 voters who registered there this month did so after her post. The website registered 2,811 Tennesseans in September and 951 in August. Some of them were likely moved because Swift spoke out against Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn's anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-women's rights voting record. "These are not MY Tennessee values," Swift wrote.