September 27th, 2019
Youth voters Among Us after Twitch stream
TUES. | 11-17-20 | OPINION
On Tuesday Oct. 20, the internet broke as an unlikely crossover occurred: gaming and politics. U.S. House Representative (NY-14) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez streamed on Twitch for about three hours playing Among Us, one of the most popular multiplayer mobile and PC games right now. Among Us, despite being released in 2018, has grown in popularity since Sept. of this year. So why was Ocasio-Cortez playing Among Us?
On Oct. 19, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted “Anyone want to play Among Us with me on Twitch to get out the vote? (I’ve never played but it looks like a lot of fun)”, which received thousands of retweets and favorites. U.S. House Representative (MN-6) Ilhan Omar volunteered to play Among Us with Ocasio-Cortez. Popular Twitch streamers such as Pokimane, DrLupo, HasanAbi and DisguisedToast (yes, that is what they go by) played multiple rounds with Ocasio-Cortez and Omar as hundreds of thousands of viewers watched; the stream had record-level viewership, with 435,000 viewers, putting it in the top twenty most watched streams on Twitch ever. As of today, the Twitch has millions of views.
That is not the only record set, though. Ocasio-Cortez and Omar, arguably, are the first
Graphic by Lexi Karaivanova
national politicians to actively engage gamers.
It is worth noting that on Oct. 16, Joe Biden’s campaign had similar goals as they created and announced a “Biden Island” on Animal Crossing: New Horizons, with voting information and merchandise designs for players to utilize. Regardless of how clever that is as a form of advertising, it pales in comparison to Ocasio-Cortez and Omar playing Among Us live.
As everyone crawled out of the different corners of the internet to watch the Twitch stream, the comment section was flooded with all sorts of messages. The two most common types of comments were “Trump 2020” and “AOC 2024,” both of which show impassioned political views and a desire to vote. Ocasio-Cortez lovers and Ocasio-Cortez haters alike showed up in large numbers, which is significant.
Personally, I adore Ocasio-Cortez and would not be opposed to an Ocasio-Cortez presidency in the future. My feelings aside, I know how controversial Ocasio-Cortez is in the eyes of conservatives and Republicans. A Times Magazine profile on Ocasio-Cortez put it best: “Wonder Woman of the left, Wicked Witch of the right, Ocasio-Cortez has become the second most talked-about politician in America, after the President of the United States.”
Even though I lean left on the political spectrum, it makes me beyond excited to see both the left and right energized by Ocasio-Cortez. Ocasio-Cortez is the perfect catalyst for getting-out-the-vote.
Research done by the Pew Research Center in 2006 showed that non-voters are usually the most disinterested in politics; the more passionate someone is about politics, the more likely they are to vote. That same survey also showed that young voters (18-29 years old) are consistently the least likely to vote. Yet, as noted by the Brookings Institute, millennials and Gen Zers account for 37% of the eligible voters in 2020.
Theoretically, instilling passion would yield higher turnout. However, Duke Professor of Political Science Sunshine Hillygus argues that “The real problem is [young people] don't follow through on their civic intentions," so it is even more important to ensure youth voters have a plan. Research by Political Science and Public Policy Professors David W. Nickerson and Todd Rogers supports this, finding that “facilitating the formation of a voting plan (i.e., implementation intentions) can increase turnout by 4.1 percentage points among those contacted.” With the youth making up a larger bloc of total eligible voters — 37% — than ever before, it is no wonder that many politicians and civic organizations have made it a goal to engage youth.
Ocasio-Cortez is not alone in wanting to mobilize youth voters — but her gaming approach is undeniably unique. In an interview with CNN’s State of the Union, Ocasio-Cortez discussed that she has seen successful fundraising done on Twitch and wanted to see whether that would work for voter engagement as well. To do so, throughout the stream Ocasio-Cortez and Omar directed viewers to IWillVote.com, encouraging viewers to establish a voting plan. Amazingly, they did have success, with Patrick Stevenson, Chief Mobilization Officer at the Democratic National Committee, reporting that the stream was “the #1 driver of traffic to IWillVote.com.”
Along with high traffic to IWillVote.com, youth voter turnout was historically high for the 2020 presidential election. According to Tuft University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, over seven million youth voters cast their ballot early or by mail. While there is no definitive proof that Ocasio-Cortez playing Among Us has anything to do with that, I would like to think it does.
From voting out the imposter in Among Us to voting for president, the youth have made 2020 even more interesting and memorable.