Celebrity endorsements: Do they matter?

Singer Demi Lovato endorsing Hilary Clinton at a Iowa City Rally on January 21, 2016.
Photo Courtesy of Jim Young. 

From Jay-Z to LeBron James, celebrities have decided to use their voices and their platforms to become more involved with politics. Grammy nominated artist Cardi B is one of the latest celebrities to use her voice to get a message out to people about the recent government shutdown.

“This sh** is crazy. Like, our country is a hellhole right now, all for a f***ing wall. And we really need to take this serious,” Cardi B said in her Instagram video.  

The rapper also took to Twitter to voice her opinion on having her $4 million in taxes used to build a border wall instead of paying for health insurance. The response caused political commentator Tomi Lahren to criticize the artist for speaking up.

“Looks like @iamcardib is the latest genius political mind to endorse the Democrats. HA! Keep it up, guys! #MAGA2020.”   

Even though the tweet had nothing to do with endorsing the Democrats, Lahren should know that celebrities endorsing politicians is not something new. According to MentalFloss.com, the first celebrity endorsement can be tracked all the way back to the 1920s.

“Some historians credit Republican President Warren G. Harding with running the first campaign that made liberal use of celebrity endorsement.”

Harding was backed by conservative silent film stars like Lillian Russell, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Al Jolson. In the 1960s, John F. Kennedy was endorsed by Sammy Davis and Dean Martin. More recently President Trump, who was a TV celebrity himself, was endorsed by Clint Eastwood during the 2016 election.

But the question most people have is more to the point: Do celebrity endorsements work? During the 2018 midterm elections, pop singer Taylor Swift endorsed two Democratic candidates, and encouraged people who weren’t registered to vote to go get registered. In a 48-hour span more than 160,000 people were registered to vote.

David J. Jackson of Bowling Green State University decided to do a study to find out exactly how celebrity endorsements affect public opinion.

Jackson analyzed survey responses from 810 Ohio registered voters before the 2016 general election. The survey examined how statements from celebrities like Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian impacted voters’ decisions on certain issues like gun laws, campaign finances, and more.

Jackson found out that people are more likely to agree with celebrities’ positions if they had a favorable view of that celebrity.

“Celebrities whom people feel positively toward are able to influence what people think about specific political issues on which the celebrity has taken a position,” said Jackson.

It was also concluded in the study that endorsements from celebrities can also backfire. Kim Kardashian called out former President Barack Obama for not calling the killing of Armenians in 1915 a genocide. It was found that those participants who read her views were less likely to agree with her because they didn’t have a favorable view of Kardashian.

Anthony J. Nownes did another study called Celebrity Endorsements and Voter Emotions. In the study Nownes found that celebrity endorsements have an affect on voters’ emotions.

“Specifically, I find that celebrity endorsements profoundly decreased the negative emotions of anger and anxiety vis-à-vis Secretary Clinton. My research suggests that a broad range of stimuli may affect voter emotions, which in turn affect political attitudes and behavior,” said in his study.  

Even though this study may prove that celebrities have a impact on politics, there is still so much to be learned. With the 2020 election coming up, it’s important for people to get all the facts of each candidate and not vote solely on who your favorite celebrity is voting for.