Do artists have the power to influence election outcomes? According to new research, the answer seems to be… possibly.
Earlier this month, Nielsen Music/MRC Data and Whitman Insight Strategies partnered with DISQO to survey 1,103 likely voters across the U.S. Conducted between Oct. 8 and Oct. 13, results of the survey demonstrate that celebrities are indeed having an impact on voters this election season, particularly among Democrats.
That’s good news for Joe Biden, who boasted a 12-point lead over Donald Trump among survey respondents (54% to 42%) and a whopping 54-point lead among those who have already voted (76% to 22%). In addition, a number of celebrities -- including artists such as Cardi B and Beyoncé -- are seen as being more trustworthy than the President on issues including racial justice, COVID-19 and healthcare.
1. Celebrities could help Biden win the presidency.
Among all survey respondents, 12% said an entertainer or athlete has influenced their views on the election, while an even higher percentage of Black voters (28%), Hispanics/Latinos (20%), LGBTQ (17%), Gen Z (17%), Millennials (17%) and Democrats (17%) said so. Meanwhile, only 9% of Republicans said the same, tracking with the statistic that 69% of all survey respondents who said they have been influenced by celebrities this election season are voting for Biden.
Among overall voters in the survey, celebrities supporting Biden were more likely to be cited as “most trusted” on “politics or social issues in America,” with Tom Hanks (49%) and Dwayne Johnson (45%) topping the list. Among musicians, John Legend, Alicia Keys (both 30%), Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift (both 24%) were the highest-ranked with overall voters, while Zendaya was ranked the most trusted celebrity among Gen Z voters at 59%, with Beyoncé following closely behind with 56%. Among LGBTQ voters, Lady Gaga is tops at 45%, while the most trusted celebrity among Black voters was LeBron James (67%), though Legend (53%), Keys (52%), Beyoncé (47%) and Cardi B (36%) also made the cut on the music side.
As for the crucial swing demographic of suburban white women, all celebrities who made the list of most trustworthy are Biden supporters. Tom Hanks (61%) and Dwayne Johnson (48%) both also topped that ranking, while the top music artists were Lady Gaga (32%) and John Legend (28%).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, none of the musicians cited as most trustworthy by Republican voters -- Kid Rock with 46%, Ted Nugent with 43% and Kanye West with 34% -- made the list of most trustworthy celebrities among any other demographic.
2. The majority of Democrats want celebrities to speak out about social and political issues; the majority of Republicans don’t.
The comfort level with celebrities vocalizing their political beliefs also largely breaks along party lines. Overall, 93% of Democrats surveyed want entertainers to use their platforms to speak out on social and political issues, compared to just 54% of Republicans. On the question of whether celebrities should use award show speeches specifically to speak out, 62% of Democrats, 29% of Republicans and 37% of Independents said yes. This trend holds even among the fans of celebrities who support Trump; indeed, just 47% of Kid Rock fans and 45% of Ted Nugent fans believe celebrities should get political at awards shows.
3. A majority of voters are open to brands taking positions on social and political issues -- and using socially and politically outspoken celebrities as spokespeople.
Seventy-one percent of people surveyed believe it’s okay for brands to take positions on social and political issues “as long as they back them up,” while 65% said it’s “more important than ever” for brands to do so. Additionally, 51% believe brands should work with celebrity spokespeople who are open about their social and political beliefs.
When asked whether they would feel more positively or negatively toward a brand if it addressed a variety of specific issues, voting was the top issue that would make them feel more positively at 82%, followed by COVID-19 and healthcare (both 80%), women’s rights (76%) and income inequality in America (74%). In fact, the only issue with a net negative impact on voter perception was criticizing a presidential candidate, with 60% saying they would view a brand more negatively if it did so.
4. Celebrities, as a whole, are more trusted than Trump on a range of top policy issues.
The celebrity with the highest net favorability rating among survey respondents was Dwayne Johnson at +60 points, closely followed by Tom Hanks with +58. Among music celebrities, Alicia Keys (+46), John Legend (+39), Lady Gaga (+32) and Zendaya (+32) were tops. With a net favorability of -15 points, Trump was beaten out by every musician mentioned in the survey with the exception of Kanye West, who came in with a dismal -22.
Perhaps by virtue of his position, Trump fared better when it came to trustworthiness on matters of policy, though he was outranked even there by a handful of celebrities, particularly among Black, Hispanic/Latino and Gen Z voters. Among Black voters, both Oprah Winfrey and Cardi B earned higher trustworthiness ratings than the President on all three issues surveyed -- COVID-19, racial justice and healthcare -- while Beyoncé scored higher than Trump on two of them (COVID-19 and racial justice) with Black voters and higher than Trump on one (racial justice) with Hispanic/Latino voters. Among Gen Z voters, both Beyoncé and Cardi B also ranked higher than the President on racial justice, joining Dwayne Johnson, LeBron James and Winfrey -- the latter of whom scored higher than the President on all three issues with the demo.
When looking at the overall picture, celebrities (a category comprising “actors, musicians, artists, models”) are seen as being more credible than Trump on a range of top issues. Asked to evaluate the “response, actions and communications” of several groups and individuals to four issues -- participating in the upcoming election, COVID-19, racial justice in America and climate change -- celebrities as a group were rated higher on doing or saying the right thing than Trump on all four.
The spread was most apparent on the issue of racial justice, with 54% of people surveyed saying celebrities had done or said the right thing in their responses to the issue, while only 35% said Trump had said or done the right thing. Celebrities also outscored Trump by 13 points on participating in the election and climate change and by 15 points on COVID-19 (the spread was nearly identical between celebrities and Republicans in Congress on all four issues). In more good news for Biden, the Democratic nominee scored the highest of any group or individual on all four metrics.