Celebrities Should Advocate for Voter Education, Not Endorse Candidates
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The First Amendment is a beautiful thing: it gives Americans right to speak, write, and associate freely, among other freedoms. However, what the First Amendment does not protect is some consequences from said free speech.
Some of my favorite musicians have become increasingly vocal about their political views, even endorsing specific candidates. And that’s within their right to do so.
However, what celebrities don’t necessarily realize is that their endorsements don’t sway the ballot box. In fact, a Hill-HarrisX survey released in June 2019 found that 65 percent of respondents shared that political endorsements have “no bearing on their vote.” What’s more, 24 percent said celebrities’ political endorsements would make them “less likely to vote for the candidate.”
What celebrities should focus on instead is reviving a voter education campaign, like Rock the Vote. In 1996, Rock the Vote created the first telephone voter registration system, 1-800-REGISTER. It later created the first online voter-registration system, NetVote. While many celebrities do work with Rock The Vote, they should take the additional steps to promote websites like isidewith.com that truly help voters gauge their own political beliefs versus blindly following endorsements or the views of their social circle.
Within the past year, Taylor Swift has made headlines for making her first political endorsement. Personally, Taylor Swift becoming political turned me off quite a bit. I’m a huge fan of Taylor’s music and entertainment skills, having seen her on 3 different tours; but her endorsement of then-U.S. Senate candidate Democrat Phil Bredesen for Tennessee’s seat made me uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, Taylor wrote her reasons out for supporting Bredesen thoughtfully. She is certainly entitled to those beliefs. I just sat there thinking of how many of Taylor’s fans voted for Bredesen just because Taylor endorsed him, versus truly knowing what Bredesen stood for.
It’s unfortunate that so many voters can not cite recent legislative accomplishments or voting records, or be able to defend their reason behind their vote for their candidate.
Celebrities can help re-frame that narrative by promoting voter education campaigns.
Another thing celebrities can, and should do, is promote civil discussion and tolerance among their fandom. Fortunately, music, TV, movies, gaming, and pop culture are all things fans can rally around. However, fandom can easily turn toxic when politics are brought into the conversation. By remaining non-partisan, and promoting respectful discussion and the ability to “agree to disagree” celebrities can keep their fandom positive and united, not toxic.
Celebrities, you are role models for so many. If any happen to read this, please take up the helm and help promote voter education, rather than candidate endorsement.
Jordan Orris is a second year M.S. Integrated Marketing Communications graduate student at Ole Miss. She graduated from Auburn University in marketing and journalism. Originally from Henderson, Nevada, she enjoys SEC Football, reading, and politics.