Mar 28, 2024 - Politics & Policy

RFK Jr. laps 2024 presidential field on TikTok

 Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks during a campaign event to announce his pick for a running mate on March 26, 2024 in Oakland, California.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. speaks at a campaign event Tuesday in Oakland, California. Photo: Thos Robinson/Getty Images for the Democratic National Committee

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has quietly built up a formidable social media presence, especially on TikTok.

Why it matters: His strong following on TikTok — an app that has exploded in popularity among young people — could give him extra exposure among this key voter demographic ahead of November.

By the numbers: With 1.1 million TikTok followers, Kennedy has some of the most of any U.S. politician, according to the political newsletter FWIW, which tracks digital spending and strategy.

  • The Biden campaign, which joined TikTok last month, has just under 273,000 followers on the platform.
  • Former President Trump does not have an official account on TikTok, but many conservative figures are active on the platform.
  • Across the major platforms — Instagram, TikTok, X, Facebook, YouTube, Threads and Rumble — Kennedy has more than 6.7 million followers, according to the FWIW analysis.

Zoom in: A video of Kennedy's State of the Union rebuttal garnered 12.1 million views and 1.7 million likes.

  • There's an element of "more nontraditional, anti-establishment candidates finding a home and a following on TikTok," Lindsay Gorman, a senior fellow for emerging technologies at the German Marshall Fund, told Axios.
  • Kennedy, a scion of one of America's most prominent political dynasties, was banned from various social media platforms during the pandemic over vaccine misinformation.

Zoom out: Kennedy's prolific TikTok presence comes while Congress has been pushing to force the platform's China-based parent company to sell TikTok or face a ban, citing national security concerns.

  • "It's very, very difficult to disentangle what's the influence of the algorithm and what's the influence of what users on the platform want to see," Gorman said.

State of play: Kennedy has officially gotten on the presidential ballot only in Utah, but he has collected enough signatures to meet the requirements in at least half a dozen other states, including three battlegrounds.

  • He announced his running mate this week, tech attorney Nicole Shanahan, allowing his campaign to accelerate signature collection in states that require him to have a vice presidential pick.

Go deeper: Biden campaign joins TikTok to reach young voters

Go deeper