Professor looks at how stars' endorsements can help -- or hurt -- politicians

May 10, 2012

Actor George Clooney is planning a fundraising dinner to raise $10 million for President Barack Obama. Comedian Chelsea Handler and actor Tom Hanks are also Obama supporters.

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy, rocker Ted Nugent and country singer Trace Adkins have said they back the likely , Mitt Romney.

Star-studded endorsements may be attention grabbing, but does it influence voters?

Yes, it does, according to research recently published by a at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Professor Anthony Nownes has found that celebrities who contribute to political campaigns can make a party more or less likable, depending on what voters think of the celebrities in the first place. His study is published in the current issue of "American Politics Research."

"Celebrities are always getting involved in politics and no one ever studies them," Nownes said. Although some academics may scoff at the importance of celebrity endorsements, Nownes argues that stars' political activity often makes news — and that means it has the opportunity to influence public opinion."

Nownes quizzed more than 500 UT students about their reaction to the information that actress Jennifer Aniston has donated heavily to Democrats and quarterback Peyton Manning has donated to Republicans.

As for choosing students as his subjects, Nownes said research shows that "students are not much different than anybody else…probably the only difference is they might be slightly more open to new information."

He said he chose Manning because, as a former UT gridiron star, he tends to be very popular among Tennessee students. He chose Aniston because most students would know her, but their opinion of her wasn't so clear cut.

"My results support the general notion that celebrity giving to political parties and their candidates affects people's views of the parties," Nownes wrote.

In his test cases, Aniston's support hurt the Democrats, while Manning's support helped the Republicans.

"If we think of the political parties as 'brands,' these results suggest that information about which celebrities 'use' each brand can affect people's attitudes about the brands," he wrote.

Further, he found, people sometimes change their opinions about celebrities after learning about their political leanings.

"Throwing their support behind a presidential candidate doesn't help the celebrities much," he said. "They don't get much positive from it, and they might get negative."

In this case, the data showed that people who are not particularly fond of Republicans were turned off by Manning's support for the Republicans and adjusted their opinions of him accordingly. Similarly, people who disliked the Democratic Party viewed Jennifer Aniston more negatively after learning about her for Democrats.

"If this study has a practical meaning," Nownes said. "Its advice for celebrities: keep a low profile."

Explore further: Less privileged kids shine at university, according to study

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Celebrity adoption of charitable causes oversold

Oct 14, 2008

Celebrities do have the ability to focus awareness on charitable and political causes but their power to move the news machine to shape policy agendas has been oversold, according to recent research published by SAGE in the ...

Why New Political Parties Sizzle or Fizzle

Aug 04, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Across the globe, new political parties, from green parties to anti-immigration parties, are constantly emerging in democratic countries. But while some of these nascent single-issue groups fade away, others, ...

Recommended for you

Why are UK teenagers skipping school?

Dec 18, 2014

Analysis of the results of a large-scale survey reveals the extent of truancy in English secondary schools and sheds light on the mental health of the country's teens.

Fewer lectures, more group work

Dec 18, 2014

Professor Cees van der Vleuten from Maastricht University is a Visiting Professor at Wits University who believes that learning should be student centred.

How to teach all students to think critically

Dec 18, 2014

All first year students at the University of Technology Sydney could soon be required to take a compulsory maths course in an attempt to give them some numerical thinking skills. ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

COCO
1 / 5 (1) May 11, 2012
so George - Tom and Chelsa like endless wars - crushing of individual rites and being raped by banks - how noble - how about some sane personalities supporting Ron Paul? - Peace - May 11 12

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.