Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Effectiveness of Celebrity Endorsement of Political Candidates

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

Effectiveness of Celebrity Endorsement of Political Candidates

Article excerpt

According to a Gallup poll of 507 Americans, celebrity endorsement of a political candidate could bring negative effects (Carroll & Jones, 2007). Regarding Oprah Winfrey's official and outspoken endorsement of Barack Obama, 81% said her endorsement made no difference, whereas 10% responded that they were more likely to vote against him and 8% said they were more likely to vote for him (Carroll & Jones, 2007). As the Gallup poll results indicated, celebrity endorsement might have no effect and could even be counterproductive to a candidate's election campaign. Why then are such endorsements sought? The simple answer is celebrity endorsement brings with it greater press coverage and larger campaign donations (Carroll & Jones, 2007). Nevertheless, the Gallup survey suggests the practice should be carefully employed.

Garthwaite and Moore (2008) found that Winfrey's endorsement had a positive effect on the votes Obama received, increasing the overall voter participation rate and the number of contributions received by Obama, and was responsible for about 1,000,000 additional votes for Obama. With respect to helping individual candidates, however, a more recent study (Usry & Cobb, 2010) found that celebrity endorsements damaged the standing of political candidates. Young people exposed to a celebrity endorsement liked the candidate less and were less likely to vote for him or her. Usry and Cobb (2010) warned that these endorsements can have the reverse effect not only on the candidate but on the celebrity as well. However, prior researchers have also indicated that celebrity endorsement is deemed to be effective in both marketing and political contexts (Gunter, 2014; Jackson, 2008; Usry & Cobb, 2010).

Such conflicting findings warrant further research. In the current study, I had three areas of research. First, I examined individuals' perceptions of the effects of celebrity endorsement of a political candidate. Second, I investigated whether voters' identification with a celebrity endorser would influence candidate evaluation and voting intention. Third, I researched the effects of individuals' political efficacy (low vs. high) in the political decision-making process, in particular, in a celebrity endorsement context.

Literature Review and Development of Hypotheses

Celebrity Endorsement in the Political Arena and Third-Person Effect

Jackson (2008) investigated the impact of celebrities' endorsements of certain beliefs on the attitudes of young Americans to those beliefs. The study results showed that young people were significantly more likely to agree with a position when a celebrity had endorsed it. Similarly, Gunter (2014) suggested that celebrities might be critical to political socialization and fans might use their idols as sources of political information and beliefs.

In some sectors of society, celebrity endorsement may even affect voter turnout. Austin, Van de Vord, Pinkleton, and Epstein (2008) found that receptivity of voters to celebrity spokespeople resulted in low levels of complacency and high levels of self-efficacy. Their findings revealed how and why celebrity-endorsed Get Out to Vote campaigns may help persuade young voters (18 to 25 years) to participate in an election campaign. Wood and Herbst (2007) found that first-time Democratic voters were significantly more receptive than were their Republican counterparts to celebrities encouraging voter turnout. Their study findings also support the notion that use of celebrity endorsement encourages voter turnout. Another researcher found that celebrity endorsements can affect voters' emotions (Nownes, 2017), in particular, that celebrity endorsements decreased the negative emotions of anger and anxiety.

The third-person effect theory predicts that people perceive media messages to wield greater persuasive influence on people other than themselves (Davison, 1983). When people overestimate the perceived media impact on others, this suggests that they may perceive the media as powerful, persuasive, and manipulative, and that they may also believe people are inordinately influenced by its power and manipulation (Perloff, 1993; Price, Huang, & Tewksbury, 1997). …

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