Politician Takes To Tinder To Ignite Voters' Interest

Jan 23, 2016
Originally published on January 23, 2016 10:32 am

Greggor Ilagan, a Hawaii county councilman who is running for the state senate, decided to try to reach that vital demographic of young voters by appearing on social networking sites. And also Tinder, a dating app.

When he announced his candidacy last summer, Mr. Ilagan told local Hawaii press he would rely more on social media than campaign fund-raising to reach voters.

Greg Ilagan said on his profile page, "I bet we can find common ground on issues and make a positive impact around us."

That sounds Jeffersonian.

But he heard back from a lot of women and men who just want to find a connection.

"Most people go on Tinder because they want to meet someone in their community and be able to go on a date with them," Ilagan told NPR. "And I thought that if I talk to people and be able to meet them as friends, I'm able to gain support in my campaign and convince others to get involved in the community."

So Greg Ilagan tried to steer those conversations to the issues on which he's campaigning. He wants to extend a bus route into his district; he's opposed to a ban on genetically modified crops. If you go to his website, you might see it and think, in the nicest way, "wonk."

"What I've noticed," he said, "is that the women were very receptive in wanting to talk about the issues. And the men were more direct, so they asked me for a date, and then I'm always trying to refocus to why I started with Tinder."

For all of his social media savvy, Greggor Ilagan may have been a little naive about Tinder. It's for dating — tinder, to strike sparks — or relationships, if you prefer. But imagine if you'd gone in search of someone to share your life, or at least a weekend, and found some guy talking about the importance of extending bus routes.

There's a reason Adele doesn't sing songs about bus routes.

Greg Ilagan may have invested a lot of his campaign hopes into social media. But for the moment, he's taken up a campaign strategy that's more old style than new media.

"I decided walking door to door is the best possible option where I directly talk to the voters in person and get to know their issues," said Ilagan, "and hopefully be able to come up with a solution that could fit everyone."

What's next — politicians knocking on doors and shaking hands with voters?

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The presidential campaigns are in high gear. And in the age of social media, candidates are using all kinds of ways to reach voters. Scott has the story of one person running for a local office who got really creative.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SCOTT SIMON, BYLINE: Greggor Ilagan, a Hawaii county councilman who's running for the state senate, decided to try to reach that vital demographic of young voters by appearing on social networking sites and Tinder, a dating app.

When he announced his candidacy last summer, Mr. Ilagan told local Hawaii press he would rely more on social media than campaign fundraising to reach voters. Greg Ilagan said on his profile page I bet we can find common ground on issues and make a positive impact around us. That sounds Jeffersonian. But he heard back from a lot of women and men who just want to find a connection.

GREGGOR ILAGAN: Most people go on Tinder because they want to meet someone in their community and be able to go on a date with them. And I thought that if I talk to people and be able to meet them as friends, I'm able to gain support in my campaign and convince others to also get involved in the community.

SIMON: So Greg Ilagan tried to steer those conversations to the issues on which he's campaigning. He wants to extend a bus route into his district. He's opposed to a ban on genetically modified crops. If you go to his website, you might see it and think, in the nicest way, wonk.

ILAGAN: What I've noticed is that the women were very receptive in wanting to talk about the issues. And the men were more direct. So they asked me for a date, and then I'm always trying to refocus to why I'm - I started with Tinder.

SIMON: For all his social media savvy, Greggor Ilagan may have been a little naive about Tinder. It's for dating - Tinder, to strike sparks, or relationships if you prefer. But imagine if you'd gone in search of someone to share your life - or at least a weekend - and found some guy talking about the importance of extending bus routes. There is a reason Adele doesn't sing songs about bus routes. Greg Ilagan may have invested a lot of his campaign hopes into social media, but for the moment, he's taken up a campaign strategy that's more old-style than new media.

ILAGAN: I decided walking door-to-door is the best possible option where I directly talk to the voters in person and get to know their issues and hopefully be able to come up with a solution that can fit everyone.

SIMON: What's next, politicians knocking on doors and shaking hands with voters?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HELLO")

ADELE: (Singing) Hello from the other side. I must have called a thousand times to tell you I'm sorry for everything that I've done. But when I call you never seem to be home. Hello from the outside. At least I can say that I tried... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.