Endorsements Draw Attention, Not Votes

June 26th, 2011 at 1:12 am | 21 Comments |

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GOP 2012 candidates are nabbing some celebrity support this election season — though adding such star power to campaigns usually wins presidential hopefuls more in the way of headlines and contributions than votes.

A 2007 Pew Research Center for the People & the Press study found that “political endorsements generally have little impact on voter preference.” In the specific case of Oprah Winfrey supporting Barack Obama for President, 69 percent  of Americans said that her endorsement would not influence their vote.  And, even among the 30 percent who indicated that her endorsement would effect their vote, half of them said it would make them less likely to vote for her candidate.

A 2010 North Carolina State University study corroborated this finding. Michael Cobb, associate professor of political science at North Carolina State, said that “by exposing young people to a celebrity endorsement, they liked the candidate less and were less likely to vote for him.”

That being said, having deep-pocketed and recognizable celebrities backing a campaign certainly helps with fundraising and rally attendance.

In a surprise move, supermodel Cindy Crawford flip-flopped on her 2008 support for Barack Obama and is now backing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.  Crawford appeared in a fundraising video for Romney — and the Romney for President Exploratory Committee then raised $10.25 million within a day of its release.  While it would be a stretch to attribute a causal relationship between Crawford’s endorsement and the skyrocketing Romney contributions, her appearance certainly didn’t hurt.  Eric Fehrnstrom, a spokesman for Romney, publically advertised Crawford’s support of the campaign through his Twitter account.

Romney is not the only candidate receiving celebrity support. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman gained the backing of Hollywood producer Craig Haffner, a Tony award nominee and Emmy award winner.

“I think [Huntsman] is going to be a candidate people [in the entertainment industry] are going to be interested in,” said Haffner. More significant than the producer’s support in and of itself is the fact that Haffner has already begun arranging California meetings and fundraisers for potential Huntsman Hollywood backers. Huntsman’s first Los Angeles fundraiser will be on Monday, June 27 where he will solicit large contributions that will give the donors special VIP perks at campaign events.

Rep. Michele Bachmann has gained the support of actor Kelsey Grammer, with the former Frasier star contributing a video message to her “Troopathon” fundraiser on Thursday.

Chuck Norris, who famously supported former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee last election season, has thrown his hat in the ring for Rep. Ron Paul.

Norris was influential in garnering support for Huckabee at the outset of his White House bid.  The Los Angeles Times reported that Norris was “a factor in Huckabee’s popularity surge” and said in 2007, “A month ago, few even knew that Huckabee was a former governor of Arkansas, let alone a Republican candidate for president. Then karate-movie tough guy Norris … announced he was in Huckabee’s camp… Suddenly, Huckabee became the presidential example of tough-guy cool.” However, it is unclear how much his support will help the divisive Paul’s campaign this year.

So far Governor Tim Pawlenty and the other GOP candidates seem to be lagging behind in celebrity endorsements, though the pool of Hollywood Republicans is famously small to begin with.

While Hollywood endorsements may not help politically advance the candidates, having a recognizable celebrity in your corner boosts fundraising efforts.  And, in the case of Romney, having a famous supermodel like Crawford on your team will definitely attract attention if not actual votes.

Recent Posts by Tessa Berenson

21 Comments so far ↓

  • hisgirlfriday

    Why would a social conservative like Michele Bachmann even want Kelsey Grammer’s endorsement?

    • jakester

      Because it lends a little class and reasonableness to someone sorely lacking both

      • armstp

        Kelsey Grammer adds class??? This is a guy who walks out on his wife and family for a twenty-something. This is a guy who was known to have a wandering eye. A real family values guy.

  • dmnolan

    Chuck Norris? Endorsement by a home gym equipment pitchman? Hot stuff! Ted Nugent can’t be far behind.

  • Graychin

    The people who think that celebrity endorsements matter are… the celebrities themselves. Press outlets like to trumpet celebrity endorsements because it gives them a reason to display pictures of pretty girls like Cindy Crawford, or talk about screwballs like Chuck Norris and Ted Nugent.

    Celebrity sells! That’s why there are tabloids.

    (As if anyone cares who Cindy Crawford wants to be president!)

  • balconesfault

    Kelsey Grammer is supporting Michelle Bachmann?

    Isn’t she a bit old for his usual tastes?

  • dmnolan

    Anyway, Chuck Norris is the new Jack Lalanne and everone should try his recipe for zippy cole slaw which would be our way of endorsing him.

  • josebrwn

    I never liked Cindy Crawford. Now I know why.

  • PracticalGirl

    My favorite flip flop on all of this? The conservatives and right wingers who decry Hollywood and celebrity endorsements, right up until they come their way.

    • dmnolan

      The Right, or it’s pitchmen, usually deride political endorsements by entertainers or musicians as being proof of the opposing candidate’s unsuitability. The work of “effete pukes,” in the words of one of the towering fathers of modern conservatism. So how do the very people who mock Barbara Streisand or Sean Penn justify having their own celebrity endorsements? They’re not out to make sense. I think the key is smug and earnest mockery. If you can attract public figure, even, or maybe especially, a disgraced bag-man such as Oliver North, or a half-wit like Victoria Jackson, to come out and say “Barack Obama is the worst President in the history of the Northern Hemisphere,” then you’re aiming at that element in the crowd that would consider attending a public execution as wholesome family entertainment.

  • baw1064

    Who does Bernie Madoff endorse for President? How about Mel Gibson?

  • Houndentenor

    This post should be tagged “duh”. No one takes celebrity endorsements seriously. I’m not even convinced that endorsements by other politicians carry all that much weight. Maybe it gets a struggling campaign 30 seconds of media coverage. Is there any incidence where an endorsement made a campaign?

    And yes, I agree that it’s funny how the right denounces hollywood and then lines up for photo ops with right-wing celebrities. But hypocrisy is nothing new to the right on this or just about any other issues.

    And I’d have thought Newt will be more Kelsey Graham’s cup of tea. I guess the “dump your wife for a younger model” crowd don’t really hang together.

  • DirtyLibrul

    Safe to say these endorsements more about the “star” (A stretch for anyone on this list) than then candidate.

    Crawford/Romney: Opportunist
    Norris/Paul: Crazy
    Grammar/Bachmann: Crazier
    Hafner/Huntsman: Who? (*that one actually goes both ways, for most of America)

    • nhthinker

      Craig Haffner was a writer for CREEPY and EERIE…fits well with odd adolescent boy demographic that Huntsman seems to be after…

  • Frumplestiltskin

    Good topic Tessa, never really give much thought to what any celebrities say but I have wondered how much impact that they had on other people so this was informative.

  • CentristNYer

    This piece really should be retitled “Celebrity Endorsements Draw Attention, Not Votes” or “Hollywood Endorsements…” I don’t think it’s any great surprise that nobody gives a rat’s ass whom Cindy Crawford or Kelsey Grammer would vote for.

  • zephae

    Graychin: “The people who think that celebrity endorsements matter are… the celebrities themselves. Press outlets like to trumpet celebrity endorsements…”

    But that’s why celebrity endorsements matter for unknown or lesser-known candidates. For them, any press is good press and while it may not change anyone’s mind about voting for a particular candidate, it may prompt them to google the name. It doesn’t matter for a Mitt Romney, but it probably does matter for someone like Huntsman that lacks in the name recognition department.

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