Obama Endorsement Costs Oprah Fans
Costas Panagopoulos, director of Fordham University’s Center for Electoral Politics and Democracy, has studied Oprah Winfrey’s popularity polls over the years and found that her ratings “plummeted” after endorsing Barack Obama — “almost instantly.”
Panagopoulos chronicles nearly two decades of “sky high” approval for Winfrey, who was consistently among the most popular woman in the country. Then, in May 2007, she announced her endorsement of Obama.
Almost instantly, Oprah’s popularity in America plummeted. An August 2007 CBS News poll showed only 61 percent of Americans were favorably disposed to her — a considerable drop of 13 percentage points from a similar survey conducted just seven months prior. An October 2007 Gallup/USA Today poll that showed Oprah with a slightly higher 66 percent favorability still reflected a drop.
In late November, she announced she would actively campaign for Obama and then did so.
But by the time Fox News/Opinion Dynamics asked Americans about their attitudes toward Oprah in a survey conducted about 10 days later, Dec. 18-19, Oprah’s favorability ratings had dropped even further — to 55 percent — the lowest level of favorability ever registered for Oprah in opinion surveys. Oprah’s negatives also spiked, with one in three respondents (33 percent) reporting unfavorable impressions of her.
The results of a March 26, 2008, AOL Television popularity poll of television hosts reveal Americans may now embrace Ellen DeGeneres over Oprah by a wide margin. Forty-six percent of the 1.35 million people who participated in the poll said the daytime talk show host that “made their day” was Ellen, compared with only 19 percent who chose Oprah. Nearly half (47 percent) said they would rather dine with Ellen, compared with 14 percent who preferred Oprah.
[P]olitical endorsements carry the risk of alienating fans, often without the reward of considerably boosting support for the candidate. While celebrities are certainly entitled to express their political beliefs — just like every other American — it is possible that the public prefers high-profile entertainment personalities to stay on the tube and off the stump.
Indeed. When celebrities go beyond their craft to engage in political activism, it almost always costs them. Jane Fonda, Ed Asner, Alan Alda, Barbra Streisand, Alec Baldwin, the Dixie Chicks, Toby Keith, and the late Charlton Heston come to mind. It stands to reason, really. A good actor or singer can entertain people regardless of their politics but actively supporting a cause or candidate will naturally alienate opponents of that cause or supporters of rival candidates.
In Oprah’s case, her fan base is mostly middle class women. Which, of course, is Hillary’s primary constituency.