Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Value Of Celebrity Endorsements... Not Much



The political right has always had to manufacture "celebrities"-- and God knows they've always had the money to do so-- because actual celebrities with talent and accomplishments tend to be as repulsed by the Greed, Selfishness, Hatred and Bigotry ethos of the right as normal people are. So in their bizarro world they have "celebrities" like Ben Stein and Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, the Baldwin brother with no talent (Stephen, I think), notorious song-thief Pat Boone, O'Reilly, Dobson, Palin, Pat Robertson, sprinkled in with a few greed-obsessed people with actual talent. Johnny Ramone had a unique talent and was actually devoted to the whole right-wing thing. Charlton Heston, James Cagney, Ron Silver, John Wayne and Ronald Reagan went over to the Dark Side as soon as they figured out there was money in it for them. Virulent racist and anti-Semite Mel Gibson, Kelsey Grammer, and Jackie Mason are wingers. Ted Nugent had a good song in 1977 (which was made famous in 1992 by the Beastie Boys) and along with Alice Cooper, Meat Loaf, Sammy Hagar, Kid Rock, Gene Simmons, Brittney Spears and Jessica Simpson are a kind of rock'n'roll peanut gallery for Republicans. The person who does the voice of Bart Simpson is a rightist and so was Costello from Abbot and Costello as were Doris Day, Bob Hope, Chuck Norris, Dennis Miller, 50 Cent and Travis Tritt. Then, of course you have Charlie Daniels, Lee Greenwood, Hank Williams, Jr., John Rich (from Big & Rich), Ernie Banks, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Ric Flair.

Anyway, the right has it's "celebrities" and the left has celebrities and, it turns out, none of it means much when it comes to influencing voters-- although some of them are good for hefty contributions. A North Carolina State University study came out yesterday that pretty much indicates the net result of celebrity endorsements is about nothing, at least when it comes to young voters, who you might assume would be most prone to caring who Brittney Spears or Alice Cooper was pumping for.
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 endorsements of political candidates-- and sometimes voters like the candidate less as a result of receiving a celebrity’s endorsement.

“Celebrities have been involved in politics for a long time, but there is an increasing interest in the role celebrities play in presidential politics,” says Dr. Michael Cobb, associate professor of political science at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the studies. “We set out to determine if celebrity endorsements influence voting decisions, particularly among young people.”

The researchers did two separate studies including more than 800 college students, evaluating whether endorsements from celebrities-- including Angelina Jolie and George Clooney – would affect voting behavior if they endorsed a political candidate. The results? The studies found that celebrity endorsements do not help political candidates-- but they can hurt them.

“In one of the studies, for example, we found that by exposing young people to a celebrity endorsement, they liked the candidate less and were less likely to vote for him,” Cobb says.

In addition, the researchers found that a political endorsement can backfire on the celebrities themselves. “Self-identified Democrats who were told in a study that George Clooney endorsed a Republican candidate reported that they liked him less and found him less attractive,” Cobb says. The researchers found similar results among self-identified Republicans when they were told that Clooney had endorsed a Democrat.

“The positive effects of a celebrity endorsement are minimal for politicians,” Cobb says. “Instead, it’s much easier for perceptions of a celebrity to be adversely affected by giving his or her endorsement.”

But while the impact of a celebrity endorsement is minimal, Cobb says that there are circumstances when such an endorsement may be helpful to a political candidate. For example, if a celebrity attends a political rally, it could boost attendance. “Are you more likely to attend a political event if the candidate is slated to appear by him or herself, or if the candidate is going to appear with Madonna?” Cobb asked.

Endorsements may also help candidates distinguish themselves from a crowded field during primaries, Cobb says, when party affiliation is not a factor, since all of the contenders are in the same party.

Marcy Winograd's campaign is a beacon for celebrities in the L.A. area and presumably the right-wing "celebrities" who support Jane Harman are staying in their closets. Some politicians have become cultural celebrities as well. Palin, a former mayor of Alaska's meth capital and a half term governor and controversial Hail Mary Pass VP nominee, may not be taken seriously as a political figure but she's as big for the right as Oprah Winfrey is for the left. Candidates vie for her endorsement. Michele Bachmann isn't generally considered a serious legislator or policy wonk, but she has become a "celebrity" for rightists in their own little world.

Last week when star-quality congressmembers, Barney Frank and Alan Grayson endorsed Justin Coussoule, the Democrat running against John Boehner-- a kind of comicbook villain handing out tobacco industry bribe checks, spending one day out of three on the golf course instead of working for his constituents, and fast becoming the focus of voter anger for rote obstructionist tactics by incumbents-- it certainly caught the attention of people from outside western Ohio. Here's Grayson's endorsement; you can see why it might have gotten some attention:
Dear Ohio:

You have a choice.

You can elect a Congressman who spent five years as a West Point graduate in the service of our country, or you can elect a Congressman who spent eight weeks in the military and then quit.

You can elect a Congressman who will fight the lobbyists, or you can elect a Congressman who handed out tobacco lobby checks on the Floor of the House, when the House was voting on a tobacco bill.

You can elect a Congressman who will prevent bailouts, or you can elect a Congressman who bailed out of the stock market minutes after he attended an emergency meeting with the Treasury Secretary and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

You can elect a Congressman who will work hard to create jobs, or you can elect a Congressman who works hard on his tan.

You can elect a Congressman who will spend his time working hard to improve your lives, or you can elect a Congressman who will spend his time playing golf.

It's your choice. I know whom I'd choose. And it ain't the guy in the white shorts:

Alan Grayson

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At 5:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fucking hate spammers.

At 8:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

James Cagney went conservative when he got old and America had changed too much to the point that he felt out of place. This also applied to John Ford and John Steinbeck - they turned right as a reaction to the changes in American society in the middle of the 20th century. John Wayne, btw, was always a right winger - he voted for FDR in 1936 but plenty of Republicans (and virtually all right wing Dems) did...


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