The midterm elections are now over a week behind us and, save for some recounts in Florida, new senators, house representatives and governors are poised to take their places. While the Senate remains majority Republican, Democrats across the nation are celebrating taking the House.
This midterm election has been one of the more contentious in recent memory, with all areas of the political sphere coming out to support candidates. One demographic that was out in full force was celebrities. While Hollywood and politics are no strangers, 2018 saw them intensely intermingling.
Perhaps the biggest star-studded addition to the political ring this year was Taylor Swift who, after notoriously remaining apolitical for her entire career thus far, took to Instagram and told her 112 million followers to register to vote. The Oct. 7 post has since garnered over 2.1 million likes.
“In the past I’ve been reluctant to publicly voice my political opinions, but due to several events in my life and in the world in the past two years, I feel very differently about that now,” Swift wrote as part of her lengthy caption. She then went on to condemn America’s “systemic racism” and poor treatment of gender rights and the LGBTQ+ community.
“I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love,” she continued. This was all leading up to Swift’s endorsement of Democrats Phil Bredesen for Senate and Jim Cooper for the House.
Besides Swift choosing to throw her celebrity weight behind a candidate, Beyoncé endorsed Texas’ Beto O’Rourke while Oprah Winfrey and Will Ferrell campaigned door-to-door for Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams. This is just a sampling of the Hollywood elite who involved themselves in the political arena in the lead-up to the elections.
But as far as celebrity impact over political matters, it’s harder to say how much of an effect an endorsement makes. In the case of Swift, Beyoncé, Winfrey and Ferrell, none of their candidates won the offices they were gunning for. Most experts seem to agree that celebrity endorsement isn’t necessarily a step towards a surefire win, but it’s certainly a way to get people registered and to the polls.
A Buzzfeed News piece interviewed Kamari Guthrie, the communications director of vote.org, the voter registration site Swift encouraged people to check out in her post.
“We are up to 65,000 registrations in a single 24-hour period since T. Swift’s post,” Guthrie said of the spike in registration. More people registered on the site in the 24 hours after Swift’s post than the entire month of August combined.
In an article for Market Watch associate professor of political science at North Carolina State University Michael Cobb noted that celebrities bring attention to an issue. He emphasized the ability of celebrities to make something newsworthy, with the added bonus of often being able to provide ample funds to support the cause.
But people are just as quick to completely dismiss celebrity efforts as they are to laud them. Take for example, Vice President Mike Pence who, as an endorsement for Abrams opponent Brian Kemp said, “I heard Oprah is in town today. And I heard Will Ferrell was going door-to-door the other day. Well, I’d like to remind Stacey and Oprah and Will Ferrell: I’m kind of a big deal, too. And I’ve got a message for all of Stacey Abrams’ liberal Hollywood friends: this ain’t Hollywood. This is Georgia.”
It’s still two years away until the next presidential election, so we’ll just have to wait until then to see if celebrity power is truly enough when rallying behind a candidate.