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May 20, 2022
A match made in heaven? French Tinder hooks up with NGO to turn out young voters
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A match made in heaven? French Tinder hooks up with NGO to turn out young voters

International dating giant Tinder announced this week that it has hooked up with the French NGO A voté (Voted). The unusual partnership is a first in France and is intended to encourage the country’s youths to head to the ballot boxes in the upcoming presidential elections amid increasingly worrying abstention rates.

Just a few days after Valentine’s Day, Tinder and the pro-democracy NGO A voté made their liaison official, “to match Generation Z with voting”. The partnership kicked off on Thursday and will run through April 8 – two days before the first round of France’s presidential elections – and has one goal: to get more French youths to cast their votes. The slogan is catchy too: “If you can date down your street … You can vote down your street.” 

In practice this means that, from now on, French Tinder users will see election ads pop up as they swipe the app while on the lookout for potential love interests. The campaign, whose simple messages range from “Don’t forget to vote” to “Get a proxy to vote” includes a four-part “Swipe Video Card” that addresses frequently asked questions about voting and sends those who are interested to the NGO’s website where they can find more in-depth explanations and step-by-step instructions on how to participate in the elections. The website then redirects those who want to register to vote to France’s official electoral registration website. 

Although the alliance might seem like a fun, new way to reach out to younger age groups, the campaign is a response to a serious issue in France: soaring abstention rates among the young.  

“This is nothing new, we’ve talked about this for the past 40 years now,” Flore Blondel-Goupil, co-president of A voté told FRANCE 24. “But the trend is growing among the young. In the last regional elections the abstention rate among 18- to 25-year-olds hit a new record (of 82 percent). It was a real shock.”  

And things are not looking much better ahead of the April 10 and April 24 presidential elections, she said. “The latest polls on turnout for this presidential election – an election that usually doesn’t suffer that much abstention – forecast new abstention records,” she said. 

READ MORE>> Explainer: How does France’s two-round presidential election work?

A recent survey showed that 59 percent of French 18- to 30-year-olds who are already registered to vote plan to abstain in the first round of the elections. 

Seeing that 50 percent of Tinder’s users belong to this very age group, “this partnership represents a great opportunity to raise awareness as much as possible,” Blondel-Goupil said. “Today, it’s necessary to bring democracy to the places where people exchange thoughts with each other and where opinions are made.” 

And it may be working. In the past 12 months, Tinder has noted a 52 percent rise in the use of the term “politics” among its user profiles. 

Paperwork and technicalities drive abstentionOne of the main reasons for France’s high youth abstention rates, however, is not a lack of interest but rather outdated or incorrect paperwork. 

A registration is invalid when a voter’s polling station does not correspondent with their actual place of residence. This is a particularly common problem for young people, who often leave their parents’ homes to pursue studies elsewhere.

Studies show that having an incorrect voting registration address triples the risk of abstention. In 2017, 7.6 million French people were incorrectly registered, with 25- to 29-year-olds accounting for 51 percent of them. Adding to that, between 3 and 4 million French people were not registered to vote at all.

“Sure, there are several factors that contribute to abstention, such as a lack of trust in institutions or political leaders…. But in our organisation, we’re trying to get to the root of the problem of incorrect voting registrations, which affects young people in particular.” 

Tinder to the rescue This is not the first time Tinder has helped countries fight voter abstention: It did so in Brazil in 2018, the United Kingdom in 2019, the United States in 2020 and Germany in 2021.

Tinder has already been involved in a French campaign to raise awareness about consent, but the company is usually careful not to wade too far into politics. Earlier this week, for example, the app threatened to shut down user profiles linked to President Emmanuel Macron’s youth support group, Jeunes Avec Macron (Youths With Macron), after it planned to use Tinder as a platform to encourage more people to head to the ballot boxes. The problem being that the people behind the initiative were linked to a specific political party, and therefore campaigning for it. 

The verdict is at the ballot But Tinder is not the only platform the NGO is using to reach out to the young. Since the beginning of January, it is also collaborating with Facebook’s parent company Meta, with whom it has created a chatbot – a digital chat space powered by artificial intelligence – to answer questions about the elections.

“In parallel to our digital initiatives, we also carry out work in the field, particularly in young workers’ homes. The youths there aren’t always aware of the necessary steps to take” to vote, Blondel-Goupil said. 

The campaigns will end on March 4, when the deadline for registration ends. “It will be interesting to see the numbers of new registrants on that date to see if our efforts have been successful,” she said. But the real verdict on the NGO’s efforts will come after the first and second rounds – on April 10 and 24 – when the official youth abstention rates will be known. 

This article has been translated from the original in French.

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