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The Daily Tar Heel

Swiping right on your...representative? Here's one UNC alum's unusual take on voter outreach

Photo courtesy of Patrick Register.

Patrick Register, a 2010 UNC graduate, is running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for North Carolina’s 12th congressional district. Register is campaigning through a vehicle previously untouched by politicians: Tinder. Staff writer Cate Byrne talked to Register about his experience using the app.

The Daily Tar Heel: Why did you decide to use Tinder as a way to campaign?

Patrick Register: I wanted to have a way to communicate with voters one-on-one. Tinder is useful because you can reach out to all kinds of people and have honest conversations with very little filter. It also allows me the ability to have meaningful conversations at all times of the day, so I don’t have to waste time.

DTH: Do you have a lot of people talk to you about your campaign via Tinder?

PR: Oh yeah, the response has been great. I think I have around 100 matches that have led to real, meaningful conversations between me and possible voters.

DTH: What do people say to you or ask you about on Tinder?

PR: I get a lot of very personal stories. I’ve had a mother tell me about her struggles adopting a child while working out of the country for a non-profit. There’s this whole world of people working abroad who try to come back to America with their adopted children, and then it takes up to a year to get back – that’s something I would’ve never known without hearing a personal story via Tinder. Another story is from a nurse who messaged me. She works a lot and, in a shift, she sees 25-30 patients at one time, and she just said that’s absolutely ridiculous as she should only be seeing 15-20 in a shift to provide adequate care. She shared that there’s just not the funding for other conditions, and there have been several times where she’s had to discharge patients who were unready to go home, and then they passed a few days later. They died because there was no one to pay for them to stay. So that really opened my eyes to issues in health care. And of course, there are more common issues like bike lanes that I hear about. I get the chance to hear about a wide blend of issues, common and unique, from Tinder.

DTH: Have you had any negative experiences using Tinder for the campaign?

PR: I have not actually had any negative experiences. None at all. I have to tell you, you wouldn’t think something could go as perfectly as this has. I think I’ve had one person tell me “This isn’t what Tinder is for, what are you doing,” but like I said, I have over 100 matches of real, back and forth conversations.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Register.

DTH: What has been the reaction of your friends and family when you tell them you’re campaigning on Tinder?

PR: They all say, “Oh my goodness, this is genius.” I’ve had one friend tell me I’m crazy and sending the wrong message, but at least 20 people I know have told me what a great idea it is. And now, I’ve had many more people just bring it up in conversation to tell me how cool it is. 

DTH: Would you recommend using Tinder as a form of promotion or campaigning for other politicians?

PR: As a form of just promotion, no. As a form of communicating one-on-one with individuals, yes, it works very well. But at the same time, I don’t think it would work as well if there were 50 different candidates on there. I have an advantage as I’m the first politician users are encountering on Tinder. It’s definitely a completely legitimate use of the app — using it creates the opportunity to converse one-one-one with people. Politicians need one-on-one conversation, and I suggest they use whatever means they can to get those conversations with as many people as possible.

DTH: Is there anything else you’d like to add on your experience using Tinder?

PR: I think my use of Tinder really shows my approach as a candidate. I’m making sure I’m really a messenger for others’ voices, and I really just want to make their thoughts heard. I’m not out here seeking talking points and donations from foundations. I am here to hear opinions and learn something from each conversation whether it’s with an individual on Tinder or a large organization. I’m really trying to be the opposite of the stereotypical politician – I don’t want to be super dependent on organizations who are feeding me money. I want to be dependent on the individuals I am speaking with and on my own ideas and platform.

Register wants to remind voters that early voting begins April 19, and the primary is May 8. 


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