Can Popular Culture Impact the Popular Vote?

While “haters” may want to vote the opposite way of their least favorite celebrities, dedicated fans may be influenced by their favorite celebrity to vote the same way. This is a reason why celebrities find it important to show their support for a candidate.

Paige Stanley, Editor in Chief

“I spoke to @vmagazine about why I’ll be voting for Joe Biden,” said Taylor Swift’s recent Instagram post picturing her holding up Biden, Harris 2020 cookies. The use of social media by celebrities airing their political views has become increasingly apparent with the 2020 election. While celebrities speaking out on issues in society is not a new thing, AP Government and Politics teacher, Ms. Healy said, “what differentiates this election from others in the past is a highly polarized public. Politics in 2020 are very divisive and the stakes feel very high for many people… the platform used by famous people to speak out has shifted in many ways to social media.”

Some of the influential people using their platform to speak out on politics include Bella Hadid, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lawrence, Halsey, Chris Evans, Jaden Smith, LeBron James, Lady Gaga, Michelle Obama, Mindy Kaling, and more. Senior Jane Broderson brought to light that celebrities are well-respected, and people listen to their opinions. Broderson ’21 said, “Almost every celebrity that I follow on social media has been really public about the upcoming election and the importance of voting… and every single person I’ve seen is voting for Joe Biden.”

There are pros and cons of speaking out on social justice issues and politics in such a polarized time. The idea of “cancel culture” is alive and well, which makes it risky for celebrities to share their beliefs fearing that they will lose fans or sponsorships. Broderson highlighted, “There are people who are dedicated enough “haters” that they will vote for the opposite candidate as a celebrity simply because they do not want to be on the same side as them.”

While “haters” may want to vote the opposite way of their least favorite celebrities, dedicated fans may be influenced by their favorite celebrity to vote the same way. This is a reason why celebrities find it important to show their support for a candidate. They are keenly aware that they have the power and opportunity to make a difference in the election. Broderson provided the example, “Someone who idolizes Captain America/Chris Evans, especially a young person, will see him as a role model and follow his actions”

The Black Lives Matter movement is an example of a pro of speaking out on social justice issues and politics. In recent months, celebrities have shed light on controversial topics by incorporating them into the work they do. Healy provided the example of influential sports players who have done this when she said, “the WNBA responded quickly and in a united fashion to the calls for racial justice when they included names of people killed by police violence on their jerseys.”

It is unknown to what extent celebrity influence will impact the election. Healy brought up the idea that “Since young people tend to be very active on social media, this very well could impact voter turnout. Voter turnout for younger Americans is historically very low compared to other age groups.”

Young people consume an incredibly high amount of information on social media, which has recently been flooded with messages from celebrities on the importance of voting. This could be the reason for the record-high number of younger voters this election. Senior Sam Carlson who is old enough to vote this election said that his vote was not influenced by celebrities because he would “rather take advice and see evidence from an expert or a reliable news source, rather than a celebrity who might not know as much as the media.” He also mentioned that the push from celebrities and social media to vote has been unavoidable and is “honored to be part of a generation that was able to use their skills and understand what the most effective way to get people to vote.”

Broderson noted the difference between the 2020 and 2016 Presidential Election. She is confident that this year, a greater amount of celebrities have at least shown their support for voting, if not shown their support for a specific candidate. Broderson identified that Taylor Swift chose not to speak out on social media about the 2016 election because she thought that she could not make a difference. However, this year, as evidence of her Instagram post, Swift “has been extremely vocal in endorsing Biden”

When the Seattle Prep seniors in Healy’s AP Government and Politics class were asked whether they think celebrities have been successful in swaying people’s votes in this election, 13 of the 14 students who answered said that they agree. Healy’s opinion is that “people should have the right to express their political views in any context” meaning that celebrities have the right to share their beliefs through their platform whether it is to be influential or not. Broderson concluded that “I love that they are using their platforms for a good cause and I hope that it has made an impact.”