Do celebrity endorsements matter?

From fundraising to endorsement, celebrities have undoubtedly influenced the election.

Nasser Mussa

Throughout the course of this election, Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama secured dozens of celebrity endorsements to bring out different demographics of voters. According to researcher Erica Austin of Washington State University “celebrity endorsements can be an effective political strategy for engaging younger voters and getting them to the polls.” Unlike politicians, celebrities are connected to people through entertainment outlets and extensive media coverage, which makes them easier for young people to relate to and follow. From big movie stars to singers and other popular individuals like Donald Trump, celebrity faces have become more common in this election. Often, celebrities will attach themselves to an issue with their fan base, such as Ellen DeGeneres and LGBT rights.

Though the power of celebrities to influence people in different social issues cannot be ignored, their role in politics can be misunderstood. Young people should be weary of their knowledge on issues and their willingness to endorse candidates. Rather, taken with a grain of salt, celebrity endorsements can be a different way to see issues from the views of Hollywood and their unique demographic. A recent study conducted by Craig Garthwaite and Tim Moore at the University of Maryland found that Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement in 2008 “had a positive effect on the votes Obama received, increased the overall voter participation rate and increased the number of contributions received by Obama.”

Moreover, celebrities have been important financial assets because they have the ability to raise money and donate. For instance, actor George Clooney held a dinner party at his home and raised $15 million for the president. Like any other product or ad, celebrities are working to make money and get behind something they support. While they are our favorite actors and musicians, celebrities’ political voices can’t be ignored as powerful political assets in an age of growing and increasingly diverse political rhetoric.