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Will Celebrity Endorsements Impact the 2024 Election?

Hollywood elites might not be the kingmakers they think they are.

by | Apr 29, 2024 | Articles, Opinion, Politics

Stephen Colbert, host of The Late Show, has decided to take it on the road for the first time – and the media is all abuzz. The big deal isn’t that the comedian will be leaving the comforts of his studio; it’s that he’ll be performing live in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention this August. He won’t be doing the same for the Republican National Convention, of course. Celebrity endorsements are nothing new, and since Hollywood traditionally leans to the left, it’s not surprising Colbert and others are stepping up to promote President Joe Biden. But will it make a difference come November?

The Power of Celebrity Endorsements

CBS announced that Colbert will broadcast his show from the Auditorium Theatre from August 19 to 22, and some conservative media outlets are crying foul. But will he – or any other celebrity, for that matter – sway the election with his endorsement? When Taylor Swift performed at the Super Bowl, there was a lot of talk about how she would influence the election, especially if she endorsed Biden. Monmouth University released a survey in February that found that 18% of Americans “think that a covert government effort for Taylor Swift to help Joe Biden win the presidential election actually exists.” Former President Donald Trump even got into the discussion, urging the celebrity not to endorse the incumbent, saying, “Joe Biden didn’t do anything for Taylor, and never will.”

But just how much sway do celebrity endorsements have? Some experts suggest Hollywood has very little influence and that voters will make up their own minds without heeding the advice of the stars. Daron Shaw, a professor in the Department of Government at the University of Texas, conducted research on the topic. “These endorsements haven’t made a ton of difference, certainly not in partisan contests between Republicans and Democrats,” he observed. Shaw suggested that being supported by certain entertainment figures could even be a detriment. “There is a little bit of tango between controversial figures and the campaign, which is not just the vote that you’re interested in when it comes to a presidential campaign. You’re interested in driving media, in driving volunteers, and you’re interested in driving contributions.”

Still, political figures court support from celebrities, and not just because they have deep pockets. Swift, for example, endorsed Biden for 2020, which, according to Vote.org, brought in more than 35,000 voter registrations. Biden likely hopes to benefit from her popularity and influence again as the 2024 election approaches.

How have celebrity endorsements helped in presidential elections in the past? In 2008, there was “The Oprah Factor,” which some claim was a deciding element in electing former President Barack Obama. Oprah Winfrey had a lot of fans and received nearly ten million viewers a day for her talk show, not to mention subscribers to her magazine, O. A September 2008 Pew survey found that 60% of respondents believed Oprah’s endorsement would help Obama’s campaign.

Throughout history, celebrity endorsements have seemed to have an impact on presidential elections. In 1920, singer Al Jolson threw his support behind Republican candidate Warren G. Harding with a song titled “Hardy, You’re the Man for Us.” Some of the lyrics included, “It’s Harding, lead the GOP, Harding, onto victory.” Since Calvin Coolidge was Harding’s running mate, the song also included him with lyrics such as, “We know we’ll always find you with Coolidge right behind you, and Coolidge never fails, you must agree.” Harding won the presidency with almost 75% of the Electoral College and nearly 65% of the popular vote.

So which Hollywood elites are supporting Biden and Trump? Here’s a brief breakdown:

Celebrity Supporters Abound

Batting for the incumbent president is Jeffrey Katzenberg, former chairman of Walt Disney Studios from 1984 to 1994. He is also the national co-chair for Biden’s 2024 campaign. There’s also Lady Gaga, who endorsed Biden in 2020 and even performed at his inauguration. She hasn’t confirmed who she’ll vote for this election, but in April 2023, she was appointed co-chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts, effectively making her an adviser to the president. Other notables include Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane, Tom Hanks, Eva Longoria, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bruce Springsteen, Beyoncé, Ellen DeGeneres, LeBron James, and Meryl Streep.

Giving their support to the former president are singer Kid Rock, Frasier star Kelsey Grammer, actors Jon Voight, Roseanne Barr, Dennis Quaid, James Wood, Kevin Sorbo, and football star Brett Favre.

The Cost of Doing Business

As each side continues to rack up celebrity endorsements, the stars also have to take into consideration their personal capital. During the contentious election of 2016, a swath of Hollywood elites announced that if Trump won, they would be hightailing it from the USA and seeking to make their lives in more progressive climes. The La La Land exodus failed to materialize, and life continued much as before – albeit with somewhat more online TDS on display.

Celebrities hitching their wagons to politicians can come with great cost to credibility, and after the last few years of political vitriol, one wonders just how much of their hard-earned reputations these stars are willing to either commit or squander.

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