Do celebrity political endorsements matter?

by Zane Patel (’24) | November 16, 2020

Art by Isabella Ortuondo (’23)

Politicians passionately garner celebrity endorsements throughout their campaigns. In turn, society values them. But as valued as they seem to be, do they really sway voters’ decisions? And do Americans really think that the opinion of a celebrity should influence their vote? In this age of political division, it all comes down to whether or not the people think that fame warrants greater value of opinion. 

In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton received almost twice the number of public endorsements as Donald Trump, but the election still went to Trump. Conversely, in the 1980 election, Ronald Reagan received public celebrity endorsements from figures such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Muhammad Ali. The presidency went to Reagan. The difference is that the 2016 election was more recent, and as time has passed, the political landscape has become increasingly divided. There was a time when many Americans were more moderate and independent on the political spectrum, but nowadays, with a rise in political polarization, people have developed strong opinions. At the time of the 1980 election, people were easily swayed by their favorite celebrity endorsing one of the candidates for the presidency, but now, it doesn’t seem to matter.

When Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson endorsed Joe Biden for president, it made news headlines, and there was an abundance of stories regarding the endorsement. But did that short endorsement video really make Trump voters change their minds? Probably not. The reason why is none other than that uprise of hateful polarization in American politics. Recently, these attacks have just become par for the course, and people have grown to expect them from politicians, even from those within their own party. When all the big issues have become so divisive, a mere celebrity endorsement doesn’t seem like a big deal. In modern times, celebrity endorsements have become nothing more than an interesting headline. 

Additionally, consider this: if a multitude of celebrities suddenly endorsed a third-party candidate such as Jo Jorgensen of the Libertarian Party, people wouldn’t rush to cast their votes for her. This can be chalked up to two factors. For one, third party candidates, such as Jo Jorgensen of the Libertarian party and Howie Hawkins of the Green party, simply aren’t popular enough. How often do you hear about people watching the Libertarian Party Primary Debates? The other reason goes back to the division. There is so much pressure from the two mainstream parties to choose a side that people end up affiliating with Democrats or Republicans. This makes it even harder for a third party candidate to win, and a celebrity announcing who they’re voting for isn’t going to change that. 

As of now, about the only thing that both sides agree is that this election was one of the most important in the history of the United States. While there were many factors that contributed to its results, celebrity endorsements didn’t play a large role.

Categories: Opinions

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