Millennials will soon become the largest portion of the electorate, but they are also the group less likely to vote. 26-year-old web developer Hunter Scarborough hopes to engage more millennials in politics through his app “Voter.”
Voter asks users a variety of questions to match them to candidates, parties, and influencers that best align with their views. Users are able to swipe right or left to answer the questions, which has led to many describing it as “Tinder for politics.” Scarborough said Voter currently has 170,000 users after launching in September 2015, and he hopes to reach 200,000 since the app was released to Android last month.
In addition to aligning you with people and parties that share similar stances to you, the app allows you to read more about every match, and shows what you agree and disagree with most on each candidate. You have the ability to choose to make your profile public and share your stances with your friends. The app also takes your answers and places you on a map to display where you land.
Voter’s core team of five people and independent contractors work hard to make the app unbiased. Scarborough claims “we try to be careful about limiting the human touch” by using data. “When it comes to candidates we look a number of variables like the voting record, public stances and speech analytics.”
Scarborough adds that this is only possible now because of technology. “Candidates’ campaign stances and other information is available. Everything is out there and ready to be accessed and scraped.”
He explained how the app creators use the Sunlight Foundation‘s Capital Words API to figure out which issues are most important to the candidates. “Essentially, if a candidate says the word immigration three times in a speech and economy 50 times, then we learn that they care more about the economy than immigration.”
55 percent of the app’s current users are millennials. Scarborough believes that the app will help engage them in the political process.
“Millennials have the highest community service and volunteering rates, but the lowest voting rates,” he said. “Millennials care very much about having a social impact and making positive change, but do not do that through traditional methods such as getting involved in politics and voting.”
“We have seen millennials get more active than ever with Trump and Bernie who have struck a chord with millennials in a way that other candidates haven’t before.”
Scarborough believes that many polls don’t accurately represent who millennials are supporting because “pollsters have a hard time getting millennials to pick up their phone.” He hopes his app will be able to share better data on millennial beliefs.
In the future, Scarborough hopes to expand the app to cover state and local level candidates as well. Currently, the app is working on testing this by adding candidates for the local elections in Los Angeles.
In addition, he would like to have the app notify users of issues that may be important to them because “we are focused on keeping people engaged beyond major election cycles. Once November 8th hits, how many people will be talking about politics?”