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.