Washington, Dec 16: Oprah Winfrey"s celebrity support to US presidential candidate Barack Obama has raised a significant question: whether celebrity endorsements make a difference for young voters. A new research has suggested that although celebrity endorsements help a campaign earn visibility, but their support yields little return in the voting booth.
“In terms of voting behaviour, family and significant others are more influential than celebrities in engaging support for a political candidate. At first glance, it would appear that the money and time invested in celebrity support is wasteful," said Natalie Wood, Ph.D., a marketing expert at Saint Joseph"s University in Philadelphia. Wood said that securing celebrity support for a candidate is often very expensive, but notes that a well-placed endorsement can help a campaign earn exposure.
“Political parties welcome celebrity endorsements because they draw attention and financial support to their campaign. Celebrities willingly participate either because they believe they can make a difference or, in some way, increase their own level of marketability," Wood says.
Sometimes, when young voters perceive that a celebrity is using their status in order to influence their voting, they will rebel against the endorsement, and vote the opposite of what they are urged to do.
Wood said that the best strategy for celebrities in affecting the outcome of elections might be to urge young people to vote, but also to make their own decisions. “It may be that celebrities are more successful motivating people to vote in general as opposed to tendering a vote for a specific candidate," Wood said.
So as pop culture stars begin to align themselves with one candidate or another, it is important for candidates to remember that deciding whom to vote for starts at home, and a famous face on the campaign trail can only take you so far.
The research was recently published by the Journal of Political Marketing.