Politics & Entertainment—Forever Entwined

Written by Anvitha Jagannathan

To successfully endorse a candidate, a celebrity needs to be attractive, have a certain amount of credibility and needs to have some sort of connection with the candidate they are endorsing, according to Dr. Nives Zubcevic-Basic, Professor of Marketing at Swinburne University of Technology.

During the 2008 Presidential elections, Oprah Winfrey formally endorsed Barack Obama. While she hosted various fundraising events that amounted to approximately $3 million, her most important contribution to his campaign was her ability to round up support and finally, collect votes.

In a poll conducted by David J. Jackson, a professor at BGSU Ohio, it was estimated that Oprah’s endorsement brought 1,015,559 votes to the Obama campaign. These votes, which covered the difference between Obama’s and Clinton’s numbers, helped Obama win his first term as President.

The amalgamation of politics and celebrities is not a new concept. Al Jolson, one of the leading actors of his time and the first person to ever speak in a movie, endorsed Warren Harding in 1920. Jolson wrote and performed a song called “Harding, You’re the Man for Us,” which became Harding’s ‘theme song’ as the 29th president. Since then, it has become more common  for celebrities to publicly support and endorse a candidate.

To successfully endorse a candidate, a celebrity needs to be attractive, have a certain amount of credibility and needs to have some sort of connection with the candidate they are endorsing, according to Dr. Nives Zubcevic-Basic, Professor of Marketing at Swinburne University of Technology. Most of all, the celebrity needs to have power and influence—more power translates into more votes.

During the recent presidential election, we witnessed many celebrities turn out in favor of Hillary Clinton. Among them were the outgoing president himself, Barack Obama, Meryl Streep, Katy Perry, Beyoncé and Jay Z, Amy Schumer, Lena Dunham and many many more.

Donald Trump’s celebrity endorsers included Dennis Rodman, Stephen Baldwin, Mike Tyson, Paul O’Neill, Ted Nugent, Gene Simmons and more. However, President Trump claimed he wanted to “run America like a business,” according Fortune Magazine. In the eyes of his voters, he had already proven himself more than capable of handling a business—his multi-billion-dollar ‘The Trump Organization’ is proof of that. Then-candidate Trump had already developed the fame, fortune and power that came with his celebrity status, which, alongside his natural charisma,  attracted significant free media coverage during the election. He also had $100 million from his own assets to fund his campaign. Ultimately, Trump won the election. It seems that his own endorsement outweighed all of Clinton’s endorsers.

A celebrity’s endorsement carries a lot of weight in that it gives the candidate a sense of credibility. The celebrity lends their brand name to the politician, thus enabling “secondary brand associations”. Since the celebrity is already regarded as a trusted figure, voters will tend to listen to what they have to say. While it is doubtful that a celebrity endorsement would radically change a voter’s fundamental ideologies, it can nudge the voter towards (or away from) a certain candidate or party.

All this can only lead to one conclusion—politics and the entertainment industry have been, are, and will continue to be bound to each other.

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