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Arizona Senate candidates advertise to voters in various ways

Candidates are expanding how they reach out to voters, including using multiple social media sites


“The negative campaign ads this year are a turnoff for many students.“ Illustration published on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020.

Arizona candidates for U.S. Senate have been finding multiple ways to campaign this year. While campaign ads are nothing new, candidates are increasing their engagement with voters through social media.

Sen. Martha McSally and Mark Kelly have both promoted their campaigns and their platforms in various ways.

Both McSally and Kelly have active Instagram and Twitter accounts. Republican incumbent McSally mainly focuses on ads published on Youtube and other video sources, whereas Democratic challenger and former astronaut Kelly is more active on the social media sites.

Kelly hosts Instagram Lives in which he hosts town halls with Arizona organizations and talks to other former astronauts. He also tweets about his policy ideas on health care, climate change and other topics multiple times a day. Kelly even has filters on Snapchat, where users can wear an astronaut helmet on their head or a hat that says "Mark Kelly U.S. Senate." 

Justin Fayette, a sophomore studying aeronautical management technology, said he sees social media as a platform where candidates can build a more personal relationship with voters, especially young voters.

"A lot of young people think that the candidates running for office are really unreachable figures," Fayette said. "Our generation is probably not very likely to reach out to professional candidates. At the end of the day, a candidate would really be served well to have more a presence on social media."

Kim Fridkin, a foundation professor at the School of Politics and Global Studies whose research involves negative campaigning, said it makes sense for campaigns to reach out to young people on social media. 

"There may be ads targeted at young people more generally and these ads are probably placed on social media that young people use," Fridkin wrote in an email. "It makes more sense to focus college students and young people, to try to mobilize their turnout since young people traditionally participate at lower levels." 

READ MORE: ASU public policy experts address low voter participation 'crisis'

However, despite the candidates' use of social media, some students would still like to see more.

Patrick Apap, a freshman studying public service and public policy, said he has not seen the social media posts from either McSally or Kelly.

"I think they need to boost their platforms on apps," Apap said. "Basic popularity is a very easy way for people to get to know them and maybe even vote for them." 

Fayette even suggested that candidates reach out to young people on platforms more exclusive to those generations, such as TikTok. 

"It sounds ridiculous, but there have been (other political) candidates on TikTok," Fayette said. "It’s really appealing to young people, and I think that is an angle that should be pursued a lot more."

Throughout candidates'  shift to social media, many ASU students still see ads through Youtube, Hulu and other streaming platforms, more reminiscent of the traditional television medium. 

Across all platforms, students said that attack ads seem to be very popular this election.

Fayette said the common attack ads he sees are against McSally and focus on her approach to health care. 

One ad by Kelly's campaign claims that "McSally's most dangerous lies are about her health care record," and that she "voted to gut or eliminate protections for pre-existing conditions."  

The claims about McSally's record on health care come from her opposition to the Affordable Care Act.  

Despite this ad, McSally said in a tweet, "Make no mistake—we will protect Americans with pre-existing conditions."

McSally has also run her fair share of attack ads against Kelly, with Apap recalling ads about Kelly's business and China.

“(They) were highly childish, in a way," Apap said.

The McSally campaign ad says that "Arizona deserves some answers," and claims Kelly "doesn't want to answer for his dangerous relationship with China." 

The ad was in reference to Kelly's help in creating World View Enterprises, and how Tencent, a Chinese tech company, invested in it. 

ABC 15 reported that "Tencent owns a 5% stake in World View Enterprises and it has no influence in the company’s day-to-day business." 

Overall, the campaign ads seem to have varying impacts on student voters.

Apap said the ads he saw did not change his opinion, as he has been "wanting to vote for Mark Kelly since the beginning."

However, Anabelle Sturdivant, a freshman studying marketing, said the attack ads turned her off.

"I definitely felt like the ads were a little bit overly emotional or overly intense," Sturdivant said. 

Fayette said that the positive ads had a more considerable impact on him than the various attack ads, especially ones that talked about the candidates’ character. 

"She’s a veteran, she’s a pilot," Fayette said of McSally. "That kind of thing actually resonates more with people."

Fridkin said attack ads can be effective if they "focus on issues that voters think are relevant for governing."

Sturdivant said instead of producing ads attacking the other candidate, she would prefer for candidates to discuss their own platforms and what sets them apart. 

"Why should you earn my vote?" Sturdivant said of her frustration with attack ads. "Talk about yourself, talk about what you would bring to the table."

Reach the reporter at and follow @morgfisch on Twitter. 

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Morgan FischerPolitics Editor

Morgan Fischer is the politics editor, she works with her desk to cover topics related to politics in the ASU community. She has previously worked as an intern for RightThisMinute. 

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