יום ראשון, 18 בדצמבר 2016

Celebrity Involvement in the #youthvote in the 2004 US Election

In the 2004 Presidential Election, celebrity involvement was high. A
variety of celebrities including actors, entertainers, athletes, and media
figures availed themselves for advertising campaigns and community
events aimed at encouraging young people to vote in general, and tender
their ballot toward (or in some cases against) a specific candidate. For
example, actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel Jackson participated in the “Get-Out-The-Vote” campaign by appearing in a series of
30-second public service announcements aimed at motivating young
Americans to exercise their right to vote. Entertainer Bruce Springsteen
instigated a “Vote for Change” concert tour which brought over 20 artists to a number of key electoral battleground states. The goal of the tour
was to get people to the polls to vote for change.
Natalie T. Wood and Kenneth C. Herbst145

Using print media reports on the election as a basis for evaluation, it
appears that those celebrities actively involved in the 2004 Election
were, to a large extent, not aligned with the Republican Party. An audit
of major online media databases (e.g., Lexis-Nexus and Newsource) for
articles relating to celebrity involvement in the 2004 Election resulted
in more articles on Democratic celebrities than Republicans. Review of
these articles yielded a number of direct quotes, the majority of which
were against the current President (i.e., a Republican) rather than for the
Democratic candidate.
Some may speculate that this is due to the fact that a majority of celebrities are liberal democrats (Dimitri 2005). Others may claim that the
media in general are more likely to be drawn to and report on the controversial or negative opinions that challenge the status quo and current presidency, or even that the media in the United States is largely left-wing. Others may disagree completely, believing that there is balanced coverage and reporting of each party. Regardless, it appears that Democratic celebrities in the 2004 Election had a larger share of voice and this had the potential to influence public opinion.

This then leads to the question: “How do young voters respond to
these negative messages?” Much has been written on the effects of neg-
ative information on consumer evaluation of brands (Till and Shimp
1998), as well as the consequences of celebrity endorsers who are em-
broiled in controversy (Louie and Obermiller 2002). In the political
arena, research has historically focused on the effects of negative adver-
tisements, much of which has concluded that when a campaign utilizes
negative tactics, the voter’s evaluation of both the sponsor and target of
the message has the potential to be lowered (Merritt 1984; Pinkleton
1997). However, a more recent seminal study by Klein and Ahluwalia
(2005) revealed that, contrary to prior research findings, there does not
exist a widespread negativity effect, or a tendency for all individuals to
allow candidate weaknesses to play a larger role than candidate strengths
in the way that they evaluate candidates. However, this negativity effect
is really only present for voters that
the candidate being evaluated.
One way of exploring the manner by which voters generally deal
with negative celebrity communications is from a Balance Theory per
spective (Heider 1946, 1958). According to this theory, if harmony/bal
ance does not exist among voters, their attitude toward the political
candidate, and their attitude toward the celebrity, they may react in one
of three ways. First, they may change their attitude toward the political
party or celebrity. In addition, they could opt to negate the relationship
(i.e., saying that “celebrities know little to nothing about politics”)

between the celebrity and the candidate. Finally, they might choose to
“leave the field” by not thinking any further about the subject (Solomon
2004). Whereas this theory does not predict the route which the voter
will take, given first-time voters’ lack of involvement in politics, it may
be easier for them to ignore or reject the negative message rather than
invest the necessary time to process the information. Supporters of the
candidate targeted by these negative messages (i.e., Republicans) may
be more likely than opponents of the candidate (i.e., Democrats) to filter
out negative communication as opposed to changing their attitude.
Despite the high celebrity involvement in the 2004 Election, there is
much skepticism as to how constructive they were in influencing the
youth vote. A 2004 study undertaken by MediaVest, a division of
Sarcom MediaVest Group, suggests that celebrities are persuasive in
influencing votes. Their poll of 1,000 voters revealed that approximately
40% of individuals aged 18-24 (compared with 15% of all adults)
are influenced to some degree by celebrity endorsements (MediaVest
Conversely, some academic (Grimes 2004) and industry sources
(Fletchner 2004; Maurstad 2004) suggest that celebrities have little or
no impact on voters, with some in the advertising industry going as far
as to suggest that they can do more harm than good (The Front Runner
2004). Interestingly, a poll of 980 potential voters revealed that 65% of
respondents indicated that they were more likely to support a candidate
celebrity involvement (The Front Runner 2004).
Given these mixed reviews, why is celebrity endorsement successful
in traditional brand marketing, yet perhaps unsuccessful in certain areas
of political marketing? To address this issue, it is important to explore
factors that influence the selection of a marketing communication source.
In traditional (product and service) advertising, when selecting a
communication source (e.g., a celebrity), advertisers seek a person who
is (1) one with whom the target market can identify, (2) attractive, and
(3) perceived as credible (Belch and Belch 2001). Source credibility,
the extent to which the communicator/source possesses positive charac
teristics influencing the degree to which the receiver will accept the
message, has long been deemed an important variable in source selec
tion (Dholakia and Sternthal 1977; Hovland and Weiss 1951; Ohanian
1990). After extensive research, Ohanian (1990) (as found in Erdogan
1999) constructed and validated a method of assessing source credibil
ity. This 15-item semantic differential scale measures source credibility
based on expertise, trustworthiness, and attractiveness.
Expertise considers factors such as the source’s level of knowledge,
skill, and experience, while trustworthiness refers to issues such as
Natalie T. Wood and Kenneth C. Herbst

honesty, reliability, and sincerity. Whereas an argument can be made
that at least some of the celebrities in the 2004 Election resonated well
with young voters, their expertise and trustworthiness may have been
questionable. With the exception of a few serious celebrity activists
(e.g., entertainer/actor Barbra Streisand and actor Martin Sheen), it has
been suggested that the majority of famous faces are involved not be
cause they take public policy seriously, but because it is the trendy thing
to do (Maurstad 2004). To illustrate, actor Ben Affleck, who strongly
supported 2000 Democratic candidate Al Gore and even traveled the
country with him to encourage the U.S. youth to get out and vote, re
portedly failed to vote in 2000 (The Smoking Gun 2003). Inconsisten
cies of this nature may lead people to question a celebrity’s motivation
thereby undermining her/his credibility as an endorser.
In terms of attractiveness, prior research has found that physical at
tractiveness is an important cue in the early judgment of others (Baker
and Churchill 1977; Kahle and Homer 1985). Ohanian (1990) evaluates
attractiveness using a number of factors including the degree to which
the source is sexy, classy, beautiful, and elegant. In traditional market-
ing, a number of studies have concluded that attractive sources are more
likely to have a positive impact on the products with which they are as-
sociated, and that by increasing attractiveness, one can facilitate a posi-
tive attitude change (Joseph 1982; Kahle and Homer 1985).
As a facilitator of persuasion, attractiveness is what Petty and Cacioppo
(1986) classify as a peripheral cue in their Elaboration Likelihood
Model. The Elaboration Likelihood Model contends that those factors
which facilitate persuasion vary under different levels of involvement
(high vs. low). In their research, Petty and Cacioppo (1986) characterize
involvement as the extent to which an individual is motivated and able
to process all of the details that are linked with making a decision or
gathering information to make decision making easier.
If a voter is involved in the political decision, s/he will listen carefully to the issues at hand and to how each politician would handle the controversial topics if elected (central route).

On the other hand, if thevoter’s involvement is low and s/he does not have both the motivation and ability to engage in a detailed evaluation search of the various
factors and stances on the issue(s), persuasion emanates from the peripheral route. Here, persuasion is engendered by non-issue-relevant concerns (e.g., attractiveness of the source).

Findings of a pre-election study suggest that first-time voters are not particularly involved in political campaigns (Rosenberg 2004) and thus
there may be little to no effortful cognitive activity. As a result, the voter’s thoughts will be guided by his/her pre-existing attitude on theissue or peripheral cues in the environment.

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