Celebrities flex their influencer power by urging people to vote, endorsing candidates

by Kirstie Burgess, Staff Writer

As the 2020 Election comes to a close, celebrities throughout America are encouraging their fans to vote as well as endorsing candidates. 

There is no data that shows how celebrity endorsements impact the way their fans vote. However, when Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift encouraged their fans to register to vote this year and in 2018, respectively, registration went up.

Cooper Lawrence, author of “Celebritocracy: the Misguided Agenda of Celebrity Politics in a Postmodern Democracy” told BBC News that although celebrities boost voter registration numbers, they haven’t convinced fans on who they should vote for. 

Despite this, Lawrence said celebrity endorsements may have a huge influence this election season.

One of the ways, Lawrence said, is because celebrities talk directly to people on social media. Their publicist is not giving statements on their behalf, they get to talk directly to fans through a photo or even a Tweet. 

The other way a celebrity’s endorsement matters is with who they are reaching. Lawrence mentioned younger generations are more likely to follow their favorite celebrities on social media platforms. 

Historically, young people have lower voter turnout. So if a young fan follows a politically outspoken celebrity, it may encourage them to not only vote, but select the candidate their respective celebrity endorsed. 

Throughout this election campaign, celebrities have promoted civic participation among fans to allow them to not only get registered to vote but also do it early and select a particular candidate.

For example, musician Ariana Grande collaborated with voter registration group Headcount to get fans registered to vote at concerts during her Sweetener World Tour in 2019. Her actions made it possible for 33,381 people to cast their ballots in the election this year.

Celebrities endorsing Joe Biden and Kamala Harris include Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato and the original Broadway cast of Hamilton, among many others.

On Oct.7, Swift posted on Instagram a photo from her V Magazine editorial along with a photo of her holding custom cookies with “Biden Harris 2020”  frosting.

Over recent years, Swift has been increasingly vocal about her political opinions. She made headlines in 2018 during the midterms when, for the first time, she endorsed two Tennessee Democrats.

Lovato came out with an anti-Trump song on Oct. 14 titled, “Commander in Chief.”

One fan posted a comment expressing their disappointment in Lovato for releasing the track  “Some fans feel like they can’t listen to you anymore,” the comment read. 

Lovato responded, “I made a piece of art that stands for something I believe in. And I’m putting it out even at the risk of losing fans. I’ll take integrity in my work over sales any day.” 

In 2016, Lovato endorsed Hilary Clinton and performed a short set at a campaign event in Iowa. 

Hamilton, the 2015 play that swept the nation, is making headlines again and not because there is another Twitter watch party. On Oct. 16, part of the original cast held a virtual town hall supporting Biden and Harris. There was a cast Q and A as well as a performance of “The Room Where It Happened.”

Similar to Lovato, in 2016 the cast supported Clinton by doing a special performance of Hamilton to fundraise for Clinton’s campaign.

Some celebrities, such as actor Dwayne Johnson and former NBA player Shaquille O’Neal, are using their popularity to get involved in the electoral process for the first time.

Johnson announced his endorsement of Biden and Harris in a short Zoom interview on his Twitter. It was the first time he has publicly come out and endorsed a political candidate.

O’Neal admitted on his own podcast that he used an absentee ballot to vote in this election, which was the first time he ever participated in the process.

On the other side, there are also celebrities who are endorsing President Donald Trump.

Celebrities endorsing the Trump and Pence ticket include Trace Adkins, Conor McGregor and Kid Rock among many others. 

In August, country singer Trace Adkins sang the national anthem on the third night of the Republican National Convention. Although there is no news of Adkins supporting Trump in 2016, he was a finalist on Celebrity Apprentice and has previously supported Trump. 

Adkins performed at a 2018 Nashville rally for a republican candidate. According to Billboard, Trump was the headliner. 

Conor McGregor, famed UFC fighter, tweeted his support for Trump in January. He called Trump a “phenomenal president” and a “G.O.A.T,” which stands for “greatest of all time.” Trump responded by congratulating him on a UFC win.

After the election in 2016, McGregor said he doesn’t think Donald Trump will be that bad and wished him well, according to CNN.

Another country star, Kid Rock, has also supported Trump since 2016.

In an interview with Rolling Stone during Trump’s first campaign, Kid Rock said, “I’m digging Trump.”

In 2019, they played an “awesome” round of golf together and on Sept. 14, Kid Rock played a four-song set at a Trump campaign rally. 

Now more than ever, celebrities are realizing their popularity can be used for political activism. By endorsing candidates and getting fans civically engaged in voting and the election, celebrities are using their platform to boost turnout in a historic election.

Arts and culture editor Devin Whatley contributed to this story.