Danny Devito, Sarah Silverman, Roseanne Barr, Michael Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Dick Van Dyke, and Rosario Dawson for Bernie Sanders. Eva Longoria, America Ferrera, Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, and Robert Deniro for Hillary Clinton.
Phil Robertson, Caitlyn Jenner, Adam Baldwin, and James Woods for Ted Cruz.
Gary Busey, Stephen Baldwin, John Voigt, Kid Rock, Kirstie Alley, Mike Tyson, Denis Rodman, Hulk Hogan, Willie Robertson, and Jesse Ventura for Donald Trump.
The list of celebrities endorsing presidential nominees continues to grow, but how important are they? Whether or not they really matter, one thing is certain, and it is that celebrity endorsements do play a role in politics. For example, such endorsements can increase general election turnout. In 2008, when Oprah endorsed Obama, a large number of her followers rushed to the polls to vote for the Democratic candidate. Celebrity endorsements can also increase fundraising totals. Together, George Clooney, Beyonce, and Jay-Z raised more than $20 million for President Obama when he was running for office.
Celebrity endorsements can also help to raise media exposure, an element that can be particularly important for some candidates. Both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders rely heavily on social media as part of their campaign strategies. Bernie Sanders, for instance, is highlighting #FeelTheBern in his campaign. Celebrities endorsing Sanders have been quick to advance his agenda and encourage their own fans to jump on board by spreading the hashtag across social media.
To be clear, voters do not necessarily rely on celebrities for their political expertise nor do voters want celebrities telling them how they should vote. Even so, celebrity endorsements can help to provide a boost to targeted audiences. Political candidates targeting certain niches, particularly in relation to ‘get out and vote’ strategies, have found that celebrities can appeal to certain communities. When celebrities turn out for political events and rallies, it often attracts the attention of a different group of voters who may not have previously paid attention to politics or read political commentaries. Female celebrities, for instance, can often be counted on to appeal not necessarily to all women, but to young, single demographics.
While celebrity endorsements can be beneficial, they are not without risk. The wrong message from a celebrity can quickly and easily offend voters and encourage them to jump ship to another candidate. For instance, when Eva Longoria retweeted a message during the last election indicating that any woman who voted for Mitt Romney was stupid, she offended a large number of women. Endorsements can both help or harm. On one hand, endorsements can encourage people to vote who might not ordinarily do so, but they can also cause voters to turn against a candidate.