Somebody versus nobody: An exploration of the role of celebrity status in an election
Lara Zwarun & Angela Torrey, Social Science Journal, forthcoming
Abstract: This study examines the role celebrity status may play in potential voters’ evaluation of a political candidate presented in a newspaper article. Participants indicated greater intention to vote for a candidate who was a recognizable Hollywood actor than an unknown candidate in a political race, regardless of how substantive the political information provided about the candidate was. This suggests that familiarity with a celebrity can act as a heuristic in peripheral processing. Younger people were more likely to vote for a celebrity candidate than older voters, but how liberal or conservative participants are was not a significant factor in the decision to vote for the celebrity. Nor did participants’ need for cognition or level of political involvement predict intention to vote for the celebrity, suggesting that celebrity status is meaningful to motivated and thoughtful voters as well as those who are less motivated and informed. The possibility is raised that this could be an indication of celebrity status being used as a component of deliberate political decision-making, and future research in this direction is suggested.