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: Republicans and Democrats Have Changed Roles, Election Analyst Says

Related Stories

Why New Political Parties Sizzle or Fizzle

August 4, 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, ...

Celebrity adoption of charitable causes oversold

October 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 ...

Study: Celebrity endorsements do not help political candidates

April 26, 2010

If you're running for office - and want to shore up support from young voters - you want Hollywood's support, right? Wrong. Two new studies from North Carolina State University show that young voters are not swayed by celebrity ...

Recommended for you

Can genes make us liberal or conservative?

August 4, 2015

Aristotle may have been more on the money than he realised in saying man is a political animal, according to research published Wednesday linking genes with liberal or conservative leanings.

Earliest evidence of reproduction in a complex organism

August 3, 2015

Researchers led by the University of Cambridge have found the earliest example of reproduction in a complex organism. Their new study has found that some organisms known as rangeomorphs, which lived 565 million years ago, ...

Model shows how surge in wealth inequality may be reversed

July 30, 2015

(Phys.org)—For many Americans, the single biggest problem facing the country is the growing wealth inequality. Based on income tax data, wealth inequality in the US has steadily increased since the mid-1980s, with the top ...

1 comment

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.