At this point in the election cycle, you’ve probably gotten plenty of pleas urging you to vote. They come in the form of phone calls, text messages, yard signs, stickers, PSAs from celebrities, reminders from brands, encouragement from friends, and even light messaging from bracelets, luxury necklaces, and face masks. It’s also possible you have even received some very pointed messages on a dating app, from someone appearing to be a person interested in getting to know you, but who in actuality is there to talk to you about why Joe Biden is the best person to lead our country, and do you have a plan to cast your ballot yet?
Dating app-based attempts at political persuasion are not necessarily new. People were documented canvassing on Tinder for Bernie in 2016, and for Elizabeth Warren on Bumble earlier this year. Now they’re messaging daters and hoping to turn them into voters, for Biden. On her Instagram, Molly Kawahata, who has experience reaching out to voters through traditional mediums, is sharing instructions for anyone with the app who wants to help out. It’s her platform of choice because it allows users to set their location to swipe on people anywhere in the country—for these purposes, a swing state—without paying for the app.
After you match with someone, the task is simple: say a quick greeting, and then immediately ask your not-actually-prospective-boyfriend who they plan to vote for. “Sometimes they’re like, ‘woah straight to business,’” says Andrea Vallone, who is also reaching out to voters on Hinge. (While Kawahata has worked in politics before, neither is employed by the Biden campaign.) If the message-ee is taken aback by the abrupt politics talk, she’ll reply with something that justifies bringing up dating on an app: “voting is really important to me.”
If this sounds a little awkward, Vallone and Kawahta maintain that it’s worth it. Catching strangers unaware to talk up Biden has felt much more fruitful than phone-banking or text-banking, they say. Hardly anyone answers the phone anymore, now that so many calls are robo-calls. And “in text banking, I just don’t get responses,” says Vallone. “This is a bit more humanizing,” she says of the experience of Hinge-banking. People not only respond—they’ll have a conversation with her over the course of a few days. “To get ahold of a voter in a battleground state who’s willing to talk to you when they’re undecided is a huge deal,” says Kawahata. So what if they match with a Trump supporter—is it just a days-long discussion? Not exactly. In that case, Kawahata recommends that you “respect their decision and move on.”
Might part of the secret to Hinge-banking be that the people they’re chatting with think that they might eventually get a drink or something out of this? Sure, it seems like it. But having an earnest conversation about the election hardly registers as an abuse of the platform, given that lots of people are on apps just to lurk, gawk, and kill time. While canvassing on a dating app is perhaps technically against the terms of service (at least a couple people have been kicked off Tinder for doing so), as to why you use the app, Hinge’s terms of service specify only that you must be “seeking a meaningful relationship.” Then again, aren’t they? The meaningful relationship may not end up being between the two people in the conversation, but everyone deserves a better relationship with their president.
Readers like you make our work possible. Help us continue to provide the reporting, commentary, and criticism you won’t find anywhere else.
Join Slate Plus