Celebrity Endorsements in Politics: Taylor Swift

Voter Registration Soars

People have criticized Taylor Swift for many things: her music, her boyfriends, her style. She attracts controversy and rides the front-page news of entertainment straight to another international tour. She is notorious for being silent on political issues. Her critics have reprimanded her for using her stature for improper gain while also remaining pleasantly neutral on political issues that she should be working to fix. Well, she finally took a stand.

She took to social media (Instagram) to encourage her followers to vote for Democratic candidates in Tennessee and to just get out and vote. What kind of impact did that have? According to The NYT:

More than 166,000 people across the United States submitted new registrations on Vote.org between Sunday and noon on Tuesday, with about 42 percent of the registrants falling between the ages of 18 to 24, officials at the site said.

The brings me to my next question.

Did Taylor’s post CAUSE the influx of new registrations? After all, correlation does not always mean causation. People had plenty of reason to register quickly; a lot of state deadlines were approaching, and other outlets were encouraging people to do the same. I’m inclined to believe that Swift’s post was directly responsible, however, due to more information from the company:

… the total number of people who have registered since Ms. Swift’s post, especially young people, has exceeded the number of new registrations in any similar period since Vote.org launched in 2016, a company spokeswoman said.

“We have never seen a 24- or 36- or 48-hour period like this,” the spokeswoman, Kamari Guthrie, said in an interview, adding that the current spike even surpassed the one that occurred when former President Barack Obama mentioned the website.

Responses

The President was not harsh in his reply, unlike many of his other brushes with celebrities who disagree with him or his politics. Perhaps this is because Fox News claims that, despite this action from Swift, Marsha Blackburn is way ahead in the polls. However, Tennessee voting experts claim that Swift’s post may contribute to a Democratically voting Tennessee this term. While we can’t 100% tell which is correct right now, we’re sure to find out in the coming weeks.

How did Marsha Blackburn respond? Correctly. She attacked Swift where it would hurt her most, likely making up for damage from Republican audiences that Trump failed to inflict. One of the biggest critiques that women have of Swift is her lack of fellowship with other women. She claims feminism as a platform for her music and lifestyle, toting photos of many model friends online to support her claim, but she has been unable to fully break from other women’s views of her feminism as disingenuous and one-dimensional. By using her platform to promote her own work supporting women, especially as a Republican candidate, Blackburn has positioned herself on a higher moral ground than Swift in the eyes of Republicans, especially women who identify as feminist or pro-women.

The big question that we’re left with now is this: Will those newly registered voters come to the polls? Of course, there’s no way to tell, but I do think that it would improve the odds if the Democratic party were to engage Swift and other A-list pop stars to influence voting at the polls. It’s a great idea; why didn’t we think of it sooner?

In my next blog, I’ll cover just that.

Want to talk more about Taylor Swift, her publics, or the ethics of celebrity endorsements in politics? Leave a comment below!