When Politics and Celebrity Collide

At AudienceNet we like to mix our favourite things when conducting research – two of those things are politics and pop culture! With celebrities seemingly becoming more and more involved in politics in the post-Trump era, we wanted to find out who people really trust to positively impact society; the people they’ve elected to do just that, or celebrities whose talents mainly lie outside of the political arena? The results were very telling. The only politician the Brits trust to positively impact society was ex-US President, Barack Obama. Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand, were less trusted to positively impact society than the likes of Ed Sheeran and Emma Watson:

One of our core research interests at AudienceNet is how we can engage young people in politics. So the results of this survey made us wonder, should politicians act more like celebrities? If so, what can they learn from celebrities? Or should celebrities get even more involved in politics than they are already? We want to hear from you! Could celebs help increase political engagement or should they stick to what they’re good at and let politicians do their jobs? So please comment below and let us know what you think. We’re looking forward to a great debate!

To give you a little food for thought, here are a few instances of celebrities getting involved in politics we thought were interesting:

Emma Watson: I am a feminist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9SUAcNlVQ4

When JME met Jeremy Corbyn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-rxp_QwjmQ

Childish Gambino: This is America https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYOjWnS4cMY

Oprah Winfrey at the 2018 Golden Globes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fN5HV79_8B8

Kanye West on Twitter https://edition.cnn.com/2018/04/25/politics/kanye-west-donald-trump-twitter/index.html


About the Author: Anna Kiel is the Social & Political Research Executive at Audiencenet. Feel free to contact her with any questions or thoughts at anna@audiencenet.co.uk.

Note: Keep an eye on Twitter (@AudienceNet) for more from AudienceNet on when politics and celebrity collide 

Showing 7 comments
  • Lucy

    Really interesting post. I’m quite torn. On the one hand, I think it’s good to have people who are knowledgeable about the subject working in politics rather than just random people who have an opinion on a certain topic and I definitely don’t think we need more Donald Trump’s running countries! On the other hand, I do think it’s worrying that so few people engage with politics and I think it’s a good thing if celebrities can help encourage more young people to take an interest in politics, especially young people who don’t come from elite backgrounds and haven’t gone to Oxbridge. Overall, I think it’s actually a really good thing if celebrities can help engage people in politics by speaking out on certain issues, but I think that’s where it should stop. I think people who run the country should be people who have some kind of knowledge about politics, not celebrities. I do think celebrities can help shed light on issues that are not normally brought up in political debates too though – like what Childish Gamino did in This is America, I thought that was really interesting. And of course, if celebrities feel they want to use their platform to take part in politics, there’s no way of stopping them…

  • Susan

    It depends what the end goal is. If we simply want to maximise voter turn out then personality politics and getting celebrities more involved seems like a sensible approach. If, on the other hand, the goal is to elect the candidates with the most popular policies and values, then we need to have a system that discourages ‘cult of personality’ type politics and shifts the focus on to the manifestos and policy stances (which are currently ignored by many voters).

    Several orchestras now use blind auditions where musicians perform behind a screen. This has been shown to reduce gender/ethnicity bias. Maybe this could be applied to politics? Could elections involve an element of blind policy/value judgements?

    • Arthur

      I agree, Susan. I think personality should have no role in influencing the choices of voters. Perhaps some day we could use technology to anonymise politicians/voting and perhaps even reduce the extent of their role. I think this would place the focus on individual issues and policy and allow voters to feel like they have more of a say on an issue to issue basis. This way the big personalities in society could still advocate for the issues that matter to them without needing to be involved with the entire political system.

  • Meredith

    My question about this poll is whether the explicit political party affiliation of the politicians negatively impacted their results. E.g. to my knowledge Ed Sheeran, Emma Watson, and David Beckham are not overwhelmingly associated with one party or another. Theresa May is the leader of the Conservative Party, and therefore Labour members or members of other parties are likely to say they do not trust her to positively impact society. Meanwhile Ed Sheeran would not similarly automatically not have the trust of certain party members. Who even knows what policies he supports, so it’s easier for more people to say “sure, why not, he seems like a good guy.” I would be interested to see the poll broken down by party affiliation. For instance, do Conservatives trust David Beckham or Theresa May more to positively impact society? How do Labour members feel about Jeremy Corbyn vs. Emma Watson?

  • James

    I think everyone who’s commented seem to have the same thought process – ie “what’s the end game?” Certainly they have a platform from which they are able to reach more people but to what end. I mean yes, they all have their own politics and views but I think we can assume that much of the celebrities of today that speak out like Emma Watson and Oprah Winfrey are from a left leaning political perspective. I don’t have a problem with that; I think at the end of they day it’s great that they care and want to be engaged as good citizens of the world and they are in a privileged position to make their voices heard above others. This, however, does not qualify them to actually hold political power or to actually decide on how our government’s should be managed. I think that should be left to more qualified individuals (which definitely does NOT mean you need a degree from Oxbridge but that you at least have a clue about how matters or politics, history, and economics works)

  • Max

    Should celebrities get even more involved in politics than they are already? Probably not. Bringing politics into the mainstream is, of course, no bad thing, but celebs being overtly affiliated with a political party may encourage their fans to align themselves to such party, purely because Dua Lipa says so (blind leading the blind springs to mind).

    So should politicians act more like celebrities? Probably. Politicians could learn a thing or two from celebrities about how to connect with the public – and specifically the younger generation. Ramping up their social media presence, attending popular events, appearing on chat/reality shows and generally being more relatable (while keeping the cringeyness at bay) would work wonders for their youth-appeal.

    So, in conclusion, while celebs can help to increase political engagement, this isn’t necessarily the right kind of engagement, instead they should leave politicians do their jobs, as long as they do them better!

  • Davis

    The idea of celebrities becoming politicians tends to fill me with dread, as the three people who instantly spring to mind, for me, are: Ronald Reagan, Clint Eastwood and Donald Trump, all of whom appeared to see political office as a further ego-extension. And God forbid that Kanye West ever be let loose on the American electorate. What does make sense, however, is the suggestion that politicians might learn from celebrities and their powers of global communication.

    When you consider which current political figures would be most adept at making the transition from politics to celebrity, its the likes of Justin Trudeau, Emmanuel Macron and Michelle Obama who spring to mind, all of whom have highly defined interpersonal and communications skills.

    Certainly, Justin Trudeau or Emmanuel Macron would beat Jeremy Corbyn to the next James Bond role and the safe money would be on Michelle Obama to win the lead as Wonder Woman over the likes of Theresa May.