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Some young voters ‘annoyed’ by celebrity political endorsements

“Obama is my homeboy,” reads a fashionable t-shirt worn by reality TV star Kim Kardashian last March. While popular celebrities such as Kardashian publicly endorse presidential candidates to their young fans, many University of Miami students say a celebrity political endorsement may be counterproductive for the celebrity and for influencing young voters in general.

“I don’t think that celebrities should have any influence on political beliefs,” said senior James Mazzulla. “What gives celebrities justification that puts them in the place to have political influence? I couldn’t see why I would want to listen to a celebrity for political guidance or advice. I definitely think it’s annoying.”

Although students such as Mazzulla say celebrities should not have the right to politically influence young people, senior Lindsay Crouch believes that the level of influence a celebrity can have on young voters can often be unavoidable.

“[Celebrities] are in the public eye so much and kids look up to them as a role model,” Crouch said.

While young voters witness celebrity presence in the media during the election season, some professionals attest that a celebrity endorsement is a marketing strategy that lacks substance.

“Celebrity endorsements are not viewed for their weight, but for their advertising potential,” said Sam Grogg, dean of the School of Communication, who is an expert on the subject of politics as it relates to Hollywood according to the University of Miami Web site. “In a way, getting a highly visible celebrity to endorse a candidate is like putting an ad on the Super Bowl – nothing is being said about the quality of the product, but an awful lot of people will now be aware of it.”

Thomas M. Steinfatt, a professor in the School of Communication, said the magnitude of an endorsement’s impact on voters depends on the particular celebrity expressing his or her political views.

“People will pay attention for a short time only unless the celebrity is associated with causes, like the environment, that the [voter is interested in],” Steinfatt said. “If it’s somebody like Paris Hilton, who doesn’t have many causes, it’s unlikely that she will have a lasting impact.”

The way a presidential candidate is marketed, by a celebrity or a candidate’s campaign, is a key determinant in influencing young voters, said Samantha Skey, executive vice president of Strategic Marketing for Alloy Media + Marketing.

“[Senator Barack] Obama is marketed almost like a brand,” said Skey, whose company has conducted research on college students’ responses to the different candidates and how they are marketed. “Obama has struck a chord with college students and young people because his message of ‘Yes We Can’ is very accessible and optimistic, which resonates with today’s empowered group of young citizens.”

Skey added that, through focus groups and surveys, her company found that students react similarly to positive company slogans – such as Nike’s ‘Just Do It” – as they do to Obama’s message of “Yes We Can” and “Change You Can Believe In.”

Skey said that most marketers agree that celebrity endorsements can have a “mixed impact” on young voters.

“As with any celebrity endorsement, you take the baggage of the celebrity too,” Skey said. “If that celebrity is engaged in some behavior that is unbecoming, that can reflect on a candidate. Depending on the celebrity, an endorsement can have a positive or negative effect on voters.”

Alessandra Cuetara, a sophomore, said hip-hop artist Diddy’s political endorsements and campaigning is “most annoying,” while rapper 50 Cent is “most believable.”

“I think it’s amusing,” Cuetara said. “It doesn’t affect me, but I think they’re hurting themselves. They can lose fans.”

Overall, many young voters dislike celebrity endorsements during the political season.

“Celebrities are famous people, but that’s all they should be. They shouldn’t be influential or manipulative popular figures,” said Marissa Orenstein, a junior. “They should keep their political opinions to themselves. People should make their decisions on the issues they care about, not on what Hollywood wants.”

September 24, 2008

Reporters

Chelsea Kate Isaacs


ONE COMMENT ON THIS POST To “Some young voters ‘annoyed’ by celebrity political endorsements”

  1. Middle aged dont like it either says:

    We arent fans because of political opinion. Personally I like to keep my entertainment just that.

    I was sent this email from a member of Maroon 5. My email was taken from their fan club/messg board.

    Note From Jesse…

    Hello Colorado Friends…

    This is Jesse from the band, writing to you on a beautiful day in California… thinking about next Tuesday…

    I know you’ve probably been bombarded with E mails and phone calls about this election… so I’m hoping first of all that you still are feeling passionate about our ability to do something important with our votes on November 4th… it’s coming up fast.

    Second of all, I just wanted to write you all a quick message about the Senate race in Colorado. I was born in Boulder in 1979, and that state is very important to my heart. There is a very crucial race for the Colorado Senate happening this election… and I just wanted to give you some information about the candidates.

    In my mind the choice between Mark Udall and Bob Schafer is very similar to the choice between Barack Obama and John McCain…

    Mark Udall is a moderate democrat and a strong collaborator. He is not mired in ideological beliefs and for that reason he will be able to reach across the aisle and forge political coalitions. I believe his record of environmentalism and his strong endorsement by Colorado Governor Bill Ritter as a man who will support the drive toward a Colorado SUSTAINABLE ENERGY ECONOMY that will help lead the way to America’s independence from foreign oil makes Mark Udall the right candidate for our time.

    Bob Schafer on the other hand was recently considered one of the most conservative Congressmen since 1937 by an independent study. Mr. Schafer truly qualifies as an “ultra-conservative” and frankly those principles plus Mr. Schafer’s post congressional job with an oil company all point to a man who will continue the policies of President Bush. After eight years, I’ve seen enough of those policies.

    So those are MY opinions and they don’t have to be yours. All you need to Do is TURNOUT and vote. Don’t underestimate your role in supporting this great country of ours. Voting is a great privilege in this world and that freedom is central to defining who we are as a nation. We all need to remember to respect one anothers’ opinions and seek common ground. Now more than anytime before in our lives we need to come together to face the challenges of our time. The first step in this exciting time is to VOTE.

    Sorry for the long e-mail… I know that everyone is going slightly crazy in this election… but that’s just because there are so many important things at stake… and it’s overwhelming I know… but let’s just take a deep breath… close our eyes… think about how obviously necessary change is for all the people who are struggling in this country (and all over the world)… and let’s get geared up for our part in this whole drama… Voting…

    please check out http://www.declareyourself.com for information on where to vote in your individual counties… and please vote early to help insure that there’s no funny business this time around…

    Thanks for your time…

    Love,
    jrc

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