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: Understanding the economics of human trafficking

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

Local education politics 'far from dead'

5 hours ago

Teach for America, known for recruiting teachers, is also setting its sights on capturing school board seats across the nation. Surprisingly, however, political candidates from the program aren't just pushing ...

First grade reading suffers in segregated schools

5 hours ago

A groundbreaking study from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) has found that African-American students in first grade experience smaller gains in reading when they attend segregated schools—but the ...

Why aren't consumers buying remanufactured products?

7 hours ago

Firms looking to increase market share of remanufactured consumer products will have to overcome a big barrier to do so, according to a recent study from the Penn State Smeal College of Business. Findings from faculty members ...

Expecting to teach enhances learning, recall

7 hours ago

People learn better and recall more when given the impression that they will soon have to teach newly acquired material to someone else, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

Understanding the economics of human trafficking

Jul 28, 2014

Although Europe is one of the strictest regions in the world when it comes to guaranteeing the respect of human rights, the number of people trafficked to or within the EU still amounts to several hundred ...

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