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. God bless America's young people.
The research was presented April 22 at the 68th Annual Conference of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago.
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 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," said Dr. Michael Cobb, associate professor of political science at NC State. The researchers found similar results among self-identified Republicans when they were told that Clooney had endorsed a Democrat.
But while the impact of a celebrity endorsement is minimal, 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.
Endorsements may also help candidates distinguish themselves from a crowded field during primaries, when party affiliation is not a factor, since all of the contenders are in the same party.