Commentators say celebrity endorsements are often ‘hollow or pointless’ – but experts believe this one could be different
Taylor Swift has broken her political silence
Donald Trump has dismissed an intervention by Taylor Swift in US politics and insisted that the global pop star “didn’t know anything”.
The US president spoke out after Swift announced her opposition to Tennessee Republican Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn and endorsed Democrat candidate Phil Bredesen. Trump responded by praising Blackburn, who he said “is doing a very good job in Tennessee”.
“I’m sure Taylor Swift has nothing – or doesn’t know anything about her [Blackburn],” he continued, before adding: “Let’s say that I like Taylor’s music about 25% less now, OK?”
Swift revealed her allegiances in an Instagram post yesterday. She wrote: “In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions. I feel very differently about that now. I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country. I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG.
“I believe that the systemic racism we still see in this country towards people of color is terrifying, sickening and prevalent.”
The singer “has previously stayed scrupulously neutral, frustrating many liberals”, says The Guardian.
“I don’t talk about politics because it might influence other people,” she told Time magazine in 2012. “And I don’t think that I know enough yet in life to be telling people who to vote for.”
Leading Republican Mike Huckabee is leading a charge of conservative voices pouring scorn on Swift’s surprise intervention. The former governor of Arkansas tweeted that the chart-topper “has every right to be political but it won’t impact election unless we allow 13 yr old girls to vote”.
It is true that political statements from celebrities are often “dismissed as grandstanding, hollow or pointless”, says The Washington Post’s Philip Bump.
In 2016, “Hillary Clinton was supported by Jay-Z and Beyonce in Ohio, Bruce Springsteen in Pennsylvania and Jennifer Lopez in Florida”, notes The Guardian, and “all three states went for Trump”.
But “the endorsement by Swift might actually move the needle”, Bump adds, noting the Senate race in Tennessee between Bredesen and Blackburn “is one of the closest in the country”.
Bump points to a 2018 study by professors at California State University that examined the extend of celebrities’ influence over young people.
“Using celebrities to convey messages to the public is successful because people are more likely to listen to them than to others, even though the others may have more expertise,” the researchers concluded.
That Swift is particularly popular among younger people, who are disproportionately more likely to stay at home during midterm elections, could also prove significant.
Buzzfeed News notes that around 65,000 people registered to vote on Vote.org in the 24 hours following Swift’s Instagram post, more than the total number of registrations in August.
So will her endorsement hand Bredesen a victory in his Senate race? “Probably not,” says Bump.
“But if, on election day, Tennessee sees a surge in young women who come to the polls and Bredesen enjoys a narrow victory, we might have seen an actual effect,” he concludes.