#ukpolitics: how the 2024 general election has played out on TikTok

<span>TikTok creators are well aware that there is an audience for political content on the platform.</span><span>Photograph: TikTok composite</span>
TikTok creators are well aware that there is an audience for political content on the platform.Photograph: TikTok composite

If a week is a long time in politics, the five-year gap between UK elections is an eternity. The political landscape has changed dramatically since the Tories’ landslide victory in 2019 – but so too has the social media landscape.

In 2019 TikTok was, according to a Guardian explainer, “a video-sharing app which has become phenomenally popular with teenagers”.

Fast-forward to 2023 when, according to an Ofcom survey, 10% of people aged 16-plus said they received their news from TikTok, ahead of BBC Radio 1 and on a par with the Guardian, and up significantly from 1% in 2020, after the last election.

And while there are those who say the so-called battle for TikTok is overstated, platform creators are well aware there is an audience for political content among TikTok users, young and old.

To help understand how the 2024 election played out on TikTok, we monitored the platform using four separate accounts for an hour a day for a week, searching for the widely used tag #ukpolitics and campaign-specific hashtags and terms.

Some disclaimers before we begin: no one outside TikTok knows how its algorithm works, and we do not know whether – and if so, how – it can be manipulated to boost certain content.

The platform is also notoriously difficult to measure. It has no “most popular” section, meaning our sample was just that: a snapshot of what we saw on the site for an hour each day for a week of the campaign.

Straight TikTok: ‘traditional’ news for a new audience

If you have the impression that TikTok is all about dance crazes, lip-sync challenges and MUA tutorials, then you’d be right … but you’ll also discover some familiar faces, among them BBC and ITV news anchors, LBC radio hosts and broadcast journalists.

Traditional news outlets including TV broadcasters (BBC, ITV, Sky News), newspapers (the Guardian, the Telegraph and the Daily Mail) and radio stations (LBC and Greatest Hits Radio) have all leveraged the platform as part of their election offerings.

In the main, these organisations are repackaging their news content into the bitesize chunks favoured by the platform, sometimes fronted by younger journalists presenting, summarising the news of the day or vox popping.

But some media organisations are posting content which is more native in tone. The Daily Mail lives up to its bio (“Seriously Popular”), attracting the most engagement (defined as the sum of an account’s likes, shares and comments) on a per-video basis in the video content captured in our snapshot.

Metro’s strategy has also proved successful: its main account, metrouk (“We give the people what they want”) enjoyed the highest number of views per video and the second-highest engagement captured in our sample.

A secondary Metro account, alrightgov, was placed seventh in terms of engagement in our overall sample, posting video snippets in answer to the question its bio poses: “What on earth is going on in the House of Commons?”

Overall, among the 339 “traditional news” videos posted after the election was called on 22 May and served to us in our week on TikTok, these publications were averaging 245,000 views a video, although they scored much lower in engagement at 14,000 a video.

IB TikTok: the newbie newsmakers

There is also a strand of TikTok news content that is most definitely IB (inspired by) the platform’s homegrown content.

Some were accounts that grew out of the platform, so are native to it. Others had a disruptive presence in the media landscape before joining the platform. But in both cases, this kind of content tends to feel much more at home on TikTok.

Chief among this latter disruptive sub-category is Politicsjoe – an offshoot of the Joe website and its associated social accounts – which ranked in 13th place in our sample for views and engagement per video, and within the top 10 for news providers.

While Politicsjoe does not enjoy the dizzying highs of the Metro and Mail accounts, its content rivals the TikTok accounts of the Telegraph, BBC and LBC for views, and ranks above ITV’s.

And it isn’t the only one: news disruptors, usually posting a combination of news/infotainment, ranked highly in our snapshot include the News Movement and Novara Media.

A word here also for podcasts such as The Rest is Politics and The News Agents, which attracted healthy numbers for views and engagement on their election-related posts.

Native creators: the individuals posting about politics

The 2024 election campaign has thrown up a number of controversies but very few surprises. The exception to this rule has been Nigel Farage’s apparent infiltration of the youth platform and the Reform UK party’s apparent popularity among 18- to 24-year-olds across a number of polls.

Our sample indicates that engagement with rightwing content on the platform extends to individuals and not just politicians.

Of the top 20 individual creators (ranked in terms of views per video), 13 were rightwing or right-leaning content creators compared with five on the left of the political spectrum; the others were neutral in their views expressed on election-related posts.

Rightwing accounts also tended to attract more engagement (likes, shares and comments). When ranked by engagement, eight of the top 20 individual creators promoted rightwing candidates or views compared with just four leftwing creators – although it should be noted that engagement here does not equal support.

Among the best-performing accounts in terms of individuals’ election content was that of the former Ukip leader Henry Bolton.

Ahead of this election Labour made a call on TikTok: “The problem is that almost everyone on TikTok is already on our side,” a campaign source told the Guardian.

And – as is unsurprising for a youth-facing platform – the leftist politics of certain accounts do indeed do well.

The most popular of those accounts we captured – thechampagne_socialist – posted six election-related videos in the period analysed, getting more than 40,000 views a video and more than 6,300 engagements for each piece of content posted.

Other TikTokkers posting content leaning more towards the left (or at least delighting in the Conservatives’ poor poll ratings) and who were also among the top 20 accounts in our sample of individual creators were leftbrainuk and mrcodydahler, but these two and thechampagne_socialist were all outperformed by rightwing/right-leaning content creators.

Despite some of the above creators’ tendency to wear their bias on their sleeves, there are still corners of TikTok in which creators are doing their level best to be on the level with their audience.

These include the TikTokker Chris Chandler, who shares news on his account Newswithchrisofficial, the account bestvidsukgb which mainly posts funny videos, and Louis, a university student in his final year running the account instanational_elections.

The PoliTikTokkers: the parties and candidates winning TikTok

Although TikTok presents itself as an entertainment app, recent elections outside the UK show how the platform is being utilised by political campaigns.

Far-right parties are having some success in attracting younger voters. A quarter of the 2019 EU MEP cohort with TikTok accounts were part of the rightwing and far-right European political groupings.

Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), which enjoyed unprecedented support in the recent European elections, has mastered the platform’s format of posting short, emotional videos.

Jordan Bardella, the president of Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally, which could become the largest force in the French parliament, has been described as the king of TikTok in French politics.

Therefore it is no surprise that, when capturing content using the #ukpolitics and election-related hashtags and terms, we also hoovered up a lot of content created by (or at least on behalf of) politicians.

And while the Labour and Conservative posts captured in our sample did well on both views and engagement, more worryingfor liberals was how often Reform candidates surfaced, accounting for seven out of the 13 top political accounts.

However, we cannot see into why certain posts and accounts fare better than others on the platform.

“TikTok’s search engine shows personalised results, making it difficult to understand what is actually seen by users on their screens. Moreover, the recipe of the algorithm behind these search engines is kept secret,” said Salvatore Romano, the head of research at the investigative non-profit organisation AI Forensics.

Conspiracy theorists

We found very few accounts circulating conspiracy theories, at least in the sample we collected, but they did exist.

We are not going to help the conspiracy theorists by amplifying their videos more broadly on this platform, but the topics we saw included the fictitious claim that Labour would introduce sharia law if it was brought to power.

Again, we cannot tell why we were being served this content, although AI Forensics warns that such content can be amplified by the “secret recipe” hidden in the platform’s algorithm.

“Since engagement can be both positive and negative, polarising debates around extreme opinions, and even hate speech, can boost engagement metrics,” said Romano.

At least three accounts that we originally designated as containing conspiracist tropes were removed during the course of our research, although we cannot say if that was by their own volition or if they were taken down by TikTok.


This project sought to measure how political content was being disseminated on TikTok in the run-up to the UK general election on 4 July 2024.

It does not purport to give a comprehensive picture of the campaign to date, instead giving us a snapshot of the election coverage on the platform.

The content was gathered using four TikTok accounts. Two of them were trained on only political content before engaging in the process; the other two were newly created accounts.

Each team member monitored the site for about 15 minutes each, staggered across the days between 10 and 18 June inclusive, capturing TikTok content associated with the hashtags and terms "ukpolitics", "ukge2024", "ukgeneralelection","election 2024 uk" and "ge2024 uk" posted since 22 May, the day after the election was announced.

This trawl captured 5,122 videos. After videos posted before the election were called were removed, 3,470 unique videos posted by 2,038 users remained. A further cull removed irrelevant accounts, most frequently those using the #ukpolitics hashtag to spam users.

The final analysis concentrated on the 100 most prolific accounts captured in our snapshot.


Only public videos and not those published privately by the accounts are traceable. TikTok displays between 250 and 300 videos on each search page, which each of the four team members scrolled through daily to capture the associated links in a process which took about 15 minutes each time.