New Poll Reveals: Even Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and Kim Kardashian Can’t Sway Voter Decisions

Taylor Swift and Beyoncé may be some of the most popular acts in U.S. music history, but they don’t appear to have much influence in politics, and a new poll shows their endorsements could even hurt a candidate, according to a Suffolk University/USA TODAY national poll of registered voters.

Just 3% of voters said a Swift or Beyoncé endorsement would influence them “a lot” while 89% said Swift’s endorsement would not matter at all or make them less likely to support the candidate. Beyoncé’s thumbs down was 91%.

Kim Kardashian, who has hundreds of millions of followers on social media, fared worse. Not one respondent of the 500 registered voters indicated that her endorsement would matter a lot, while 96% said it would not matter at all or make them less likely to support a candidate. Ironically, Kardashian has made a serious commitment to prison reform in addition to being a major stakeholder in the Armenia Fund, which builds schools, hospitals, infrastructure, and clean water in Armenia, and the Dream Foundation, which grants wishes to terminally ill adults and their families.

But voters don’t see this, and perception is reality.

And it wasn’t just Taylor Swift, Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian who didn’t appear to matter in the poll. Not one person on the list of former politicians, sports figures and celebrities mattered either, suggesting that, in a race between two well-known presidents, Americans don’t want to be told who to vote for.

Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama performed better than anyone on the influencer list. Exactly 18% of voters said that the former president’s endorsement would influence them a lot. But many were already voting for President Joe Biden, so they matter less in the election outcome.

When you look at the data through the lens of just the voters who say they’re currently undecided for president, Barack Obama’s influence (“a lot”) is 14%. But that’s 14% of the 12% of undecided Americans: a small slice of a small slice, and less than the net impact of lesser-known third-party candidates who will be on the November ballot. Michelle Obama’s “a lot” among undecided voters for president was 9%, Oprah Winfrey 5%, and former President Bill Clinton 4%.

Given Oprah is a celebrity outside of politics, we wondered whether she’d perform better as a candidate. There are plenty of examples of men successfully transitioning from celebrity to politics: Mayor Clint Eastwood, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sen. Al Franken, Rep. Sonny Bono, Gov. Ronald Reagan, Sen. John Glenn and of course former President Donald Trump.

But when we asked registered voters if they would be more or less likely to support a list of 22 female celebrities as candidates, not one of the celebrities was seen as “more likely,” confirming this strange dichotomy between famous men and famous women.

Nevertheless, here are the “nominees” in the category of “Best female celebrity transition from the red carpet to the Grand Chamber’s blue carpet.”

Oprah Winfrey (30%)

Sandra Bullock (29%)
Serena Williams (28%)
Viola Davis (25%)

Not a bad starting point. That’s before a sign, TV ad, or mailer has been designed. Let’s unpack further.

2022 People's Choice Awards: Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and Kim Kardashian lead noms

Oprah Winfrey (30% of voters more likely to support as a candidate): Winfrey jumped to 53% “more likely” among Democrats. Many older voters (30%) remember the affable, relatable talk show host who is now one of the most talented, successful, and resourceful producers in Hollywood. Her strength is in a Democratic primary, preferably an open seat with no incumbent.

Sandra Bullock (29% of voters more likely to support): The ever-private heroine in films like “Gravity,” “Speed,” “The Proposal,” and “The Blind Side,” Sandra Bullock has broader appeal across party lines than Winfrey, especially among Independents and Republicans (23% vs Oprah’s 11% among Republicans and 32% vs. 28% among Independents.) And she has optionality in terms of where she could run a populist campaign, with residences in Texas, California, New York, and Wyoming.

Serena Williams (28% of voters more likely to support): The recently retired 42-year-old Olympic champion revolutionized women’s tennis, winning more Grand Slam singles titles (23) than any other woman (or man) during the “open era.” Her ability to rally back from personal hardships makes her a natural choice for politics. Williams could serve overhand aces in the court of public policy and run from one of her residences in California or Florida.

Viola Davis (25% more likely to support): Of the 22 celebrities listed, this actress and film producer topped everyone else among Black voters (65% said they were “more likely” to support her versus 44% for Serena and 35% for Oprah). This core support makes her a shoo-in to win a majority-minority congressional district, or a statewide office where Black voters have enough clout to carry her to a win. Named one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2012 and 2017, Davis’ advocacy for human rights, women of color and the fight to eradicate childhood hunger across America makes her an ideal candidate for political office.

David Paleologos is the director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.

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