Celebrities in politics: good or bad for elections?

As we are counting down the days to election day in the UK, I wanted to take a look at how celebrities have become more involved in politics over the last few years. It was only last week that US actor, Danny DeVito told viewers of the Graham Norton show to vote for the leader of the Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn. I believe the words he used were 'You've got the guy' when referring to Corbyn, the election and the next Prime Minister of the UK. DeVito received some backlash for his comments from the people of the UK as they rightly stated that DeVito is a US citizen and therefore does not have a vote in the general election taking place on the 8th of June. This raises the question; does celebrity endorsement do political parties any favours during election campaigns or does it do more harm than good?

For example, take a look at the US presidential campaign last year. Hillary Clinton had the majority of Hollywood behind her. Stars such as Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry all publicly declared their support for Clinton both on social media and during interviews. Although Clinton did win the popular vote, she lost the election to Donald Trump which is still a harrowing thought to some people. Clinton had the support of some of the most famous people in the world and still she did not win the election. Like every election in 2016, this came as a shock to a lot of people. With celebrities endorsing politicians, you wouldn't be wrong to think that it would have an impact on a proportion of the people voting. But as celebrities start to get more and more involved in politics, the candidates that they are endorsing do not seem to be in anyway better off.

US actor, Mark Wahlberg said in an interview with Task and Purpose magazine in December 2016 that celebrities should not discuss politics publicly as they are immune from the everyday issues that 'normal' people face. In some respects, I understand where Wahlberg is coming from. A single mother who is struggling to make ends meet needs different support from the Government compared to the needs of a high-profile celebrity. This single mother also does not need to be told by multi-millionaires who they think is the best person to vote for. The issues that celebrities want politicians to fix and deal with are on a different level to those people who work day-in and day-out just to put a roof over their families' heads and this is probably where Wahlberg was coming from when he made this statement. On the other hand, celebrities do have a voice and the platform to publicly speak about issues in society so why shouldn't they use their voice for, what they think, is the better good?

The 2017 Golden Globes is another example of how celebrities have become more involved in politics. Jimmy Fallon who presented the awards this year took the opportunity to make many swipes at US President, Donald Trump. At one stage of the evening, Fallon even tweeted Trump from his personal account asking if he was up - which to me was inviting Trump to engage in a conversation with Fallon on the social media channel whilst the awards ceremony was being broadcasted all over the world. For once, Trump must have listened to the advice of his team and not responded to the Tweet which is unusual for the President. Usually, Trump loves a good controversy. I am still surprised that he let that one go...

It was on the same night that American actress, Meryl Streep gave an inspiring speech about the number of foreign actors and actresses in Hollywood. Streep pointed out that there were plenty of people in the audience who were not from the USA. In her speech, Streep delivered a powerful message to Donald Trump following his very inappropriate impression of a disabled reporter during one of his campaign rallies in South Carolina. Streep discussed how she felt when she saw a man who now sits in the highest seat in the America (and the world) mocked a journalist with a disability. Referring to Trump's battle with the media and 'fake news', Streep continued her speech by saying that we (as in society) need the press to hold powerful people accountable for their actions. As you can imagine, this did not go down too well with Trump. After Streep's speech Trump referred to her as 'over-rated'. This speech was not much of a loss to Trump as Hollywood was not one of the areas that he received much support and it didn't seem have much of an impact on his supporters.

Over the last number of years, celebrities have been involving themselves more and more in politics. It's difficult to say if celebrity endorsements or speeches against politicians have any impact on the outcome of elections. As discussed earlier, the celebrity endorsements that Clinton received had no benefit to her campaign seeing as she lost the election to Trump. It would be interesting to see however if celebrity involvement in politics encourages younger people to vote when they usually wouldn't. By celebrities like Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake openly speaking about politics and the importance to vote, this might encourage the younger generation to get more involved in political issues, which would not be a bad thing.

As celebrity involvement in politics in a relatively new phenomenon, it will be interested to monitor this involvement over the next few elections and see if there is a recurring trend in the amount of celebrity endorsement for a political party and the outcome of elections. 

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