By DANNY HEATER, Guest Writer
Endorsements of presidential candidates are always deemed newsworthy in an election year, but the impact of them on voters is what really should be determined. Candidates have been pandering for endorsements since the 20th century, usually from unions and certain businesses. Celebrities came into the picture soon after. However, it is hard to systematically determine the actual effects.
Thankfully we have a recent example. Gary Younge, a columnist from The Nation, writes “Obama bagged support from Massachusetts Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry and Governor Deval Patrick, only to lose the state by 15%’’ as an indication that endorsements may not have much effect.
According to Larry Powell, Ph.D., professor of communication studies and political expert at University of Alabama-Birmingham, “Hollywood endorsements have typically gone to Democrats, and you see how effective those have been through the past few elections.”
However, Oprah Winfrey is an exception of this, as a Pew Research poll showed that 60% of people believed her endorsement of Obama helped his candidacy. Her endorsement evidently iconized him for the African-American community despite him being 1/16 African-American.
Some celebrities, including Oprah and Eva Longoria amongst others, have held or participate in giant fundraisers for Obama as well.
In general though, Powell believes any type of endorsement has virtually no impact other than bringing campaign money to candidates. A Reuters poll in May of 2012 shows that 77% of Americans think there is too much money going to campaigns.
Both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama even share some endorsements in terms of major donors; Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase for instance.
Obama tried to spin this recently, however, saying Romney’s donors “should be contributing that to a scholarship fund to send kids to college. But instead, they are going to spend more money than we’ve ever seen on ads….” Obama has not asked any of his donors to do this, not to mention has continued making attack ads, many of which have been found thinly factual by Factcheck.org.
On the other hand, Romney’s hoarding of endorsements, especially from the unpopular likes of former president George Bush and Newt Gingrich, may come off to many voters as extraneous cash-grabs for the campaign trail.
So, on the whole, endorsements, whoever they may be from, are merely for getting politicians more money, the shared endorsements seem to be for lobbying, and, aside from the smaller percentage of people easily swayed by celebrities, endorsements don’t change voters’ minds.
While the media will continue to fuss about with the newest patronages, many people prefer they speak their mind in the voting booth. This recalls the risk of endorsements. “By endorsing a certain candidate they often wind up not helping the candidate win, but you did make everybody who supported the other candidate mad at you.” says Powell. “That shows up time after time.”