When I was a wee fifth grader, my class traveled to one of Bob Dole’s campaign speeches in Grand Blanc, Mich. If I had been old enough, I would have voted for him – not because I understood and agreed with his views but because I got a Dole sticker from the trip. I was easily bought.
Back then my support was won by stickers. In this year’s kinetic presidential popularity contest, every minute of media attention and every sticker given out counts too. So it’s no wonder that candidates are turning to the nation’s best and brightest: celebrities. When celebrities throw their support behind a candidate, it generates significant media attention. As a society, we are falling into the trap of focusing on those with the most vocal support.
There is a general consensus that the road to the presidency is no longer about debating issues, but a beauty contest. This evolution began with the introduction of television and then the Internet – both of which have made public image important. Complementing this, there is also constant feedback on public opinion.
With knowledge of who’s winning, the pressure on voters is undoubtedly great. But who needs these continuous updates on the polls and frontrunner candidates when voting? The celebrities are here to help.
Expert in martial arts, Walker Texas Ranger and pitchman for the Total Gym, Chuck Norris endorsed Mike Huckabee. When you heard this, I’m sure the battle for your vote stopped. After all, both are committed to Christianity and stopping illegal immigration. But more importantly, who messes with Chuck?
On the other hand, if you are fan of Oprah Winfrey than you’ve probably heard a great deal about Barack Obama’s campaign. Apparently, he is a great candidate. Oprah said so. She has joined him at campaign events, using her celebrity to rally support. Who knows, if you turn out to an Obama campaign stop, you might even win a car.
Everyone is arguing about who would make a great president. That includes celebrities and people with webcams and YouTube accounts. Everyone has an opinion and an endorsement, and exposure to these opinions is changing the way the game is played.
Researchers guarantee that such celebrity endorsements have little impact on the choice of voters. According to the Pew Research Center and their News Interest Index Omnibus Survey, endorsements have very little direct impact on how a person votes. Results show that no matter which celebrity the support is from, a celebrity endorsement doesn’t make a person more or less likely to vote for a candidate.
Though the public may not directly take into account who Chuck Norris is voting for, it is certain that celebrities give these candidates a larger soapbox. When presidential hopefuls garner celebrity support, it comes with more media attention and more headlines. Such increased exposure can lead to more support from the masses. In the presidential horse race, attention matters. The public receives most of its information about the candidates from the media. This is shaping a new way of campaigning where celebrity support is a key element.
The media has a profound effect on what we know simply by the amount of space and time they give to certain topics. It may not be something we change, but it is something we can be aware of. Research may say that celebrities don’t affect our vote, but along with the media, they affect which candidate we give the most attention.
This increased media exposure may give a candidate an advantage. However, the presidential campaign trail shouldn’t resemble high school campaigning for prom court. We aren’t voting for who is the most popular but who is the best for the job, whether the media gives that person the deserved amount of attention or not and whether Walker Texas Ranger thinks that person would be a good president or not.
LSA junior and a member of the Daily’s editorial Board