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Polls: Far-Right’s Social Media Strategy Is Wooing Spain’s Young Voters

MADRID — Images of the red and gold Spanish flag dominate the social media feeds of Spain’s right-wing Vox party, along with videos that demonize Muslims or glorify the 15th century reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors.

As the country heads to a general election Sunday that polls indicate could deliver power to the populist right, Vox has been winning over first-time voters with a slick digital message.

Two recent polls say the fastest rising support for the party comes from people between the ages of 18 and 24 who have no memory of the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975.

The surveys predict the opposition conservative People’s Party will win more votes than the ruling Socialists but will fall short of a majority and may need to form a coalition with Vox to form a government.

Analysts say Vox is attracting young supporters because it understands how to use social media imagery to connect with members of the so-called Generation Z.

Tapping sentiments

On the party’s Instagram and TikTok accounts, Vox mixes images of Spanish traditional country life with videos of recent riots in France — which the sites’ authors dub “the Islamic Republic of Europe” — and blame the uprising on illegal immigration.

Other videos show Vox leader Santiago Abascal posing for pictures with ordinary people or a filling a trash bin with images symbolizing LGBTQ, feminist, Catalan separatist and Communist causes.

Others show images of the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors by Christian monarchs in 1492 that served as an impetus for the rise of the massive Spanish empire.

In terms of policy, Vox stridently opposes illegal immigration and has proposed mounting a naval blockade to prevent migrant boats from reaching Spanish shores.

The view of Fernando Villalba, 21, who is studying to be a lawyer, is typical of a growing number of young Vox supporters – though Villalba is impressed, in part, by the party’s economic message.

“Vox has attracted young people because they know what we care about: labor instability, problems getting your own home and establishing your own career,” he told VOA.

Vox says if elected, the party would attempt to abolish a labor law that it says has increased work instability among young people and hides what the party calls the real problem of temporary contracts for workers.

But Villalba said Vox’s social media strategy also wins young voters.
“The way to communicate with young people has changed,” he said. “Vox has moved to Instagram, Twitter, TikTok while other parties have not.”

Reaching the youth

The Socialists and the far-left Sumar party have condemned Vox for distorting the truth in its posts. In one case, both parties attacked a post that wrongly claimed that migrant youths received more benefits than Spanish pensioners.

But Vox appears to be winning over young voters. In May, before local and regional elections, a survey by the state-run Centre for Sociological Investigation found 6.1% of 18- to 24-year-olds said they would vote for Vox. By July this figure doubled to 12.4%.

Ana Salazar Sánchez, director of Idus3 Strategy, a political strategy company, said Vox understood the “communication codes” to reach people.

“Vox has the fastest rising support among young people. For them, the communication with young people is digital whereas for more traditional parties, they try to reach voters through newspapers and other media,” she told VOA.

“The most powerful image projected by Vox is Spain or ‘Patria’ [fatherland]. The key thing is rebellion with younger people,” Salazar Sánchez said.

“Whereas in the ’70s we had the hippies who were rebelling, Vox says to young people who want to rebel that the way to do this is to support Spain and the nation and back a party which defends a traditional style of life.”

Source : VOA