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Celebrity endorsements can affect political campaigns, study says

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Oprah Winfrey famously supported then-Democratic candidate for president Barack Obama in 2008.

Now, Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood has spoken on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s behalf, albeit an impromptu monologue with an empty chair.

Whether they are funding, singing or even rapping about their favorite candidates, celebrities are actively involved in politics.

A celebrity’s opinion can impact a candidate’s campaign, according to a recent study from the University of Tennessee.

“People tend to respond negatively to a candidate when a celebrity they dislike endorses them and positively when a celebrity they do like endorses them,” said Anthony Nownes, professor of political science at UT.

Despite Nownes’ findings, people on the University of Florida campus seem to have a different opinion on what sways their political decision.

Interfraternity Council member Tyler Johanson said one of his biggest role models is famous basketball star Michael Jordan, who has long declined to express political opinions or offer endorsements.

“It would interesting to look at why Michael Jordan would back President Obama and hear his opinions and thoughts as you select who you want to vote for,” he said. “Looking at Michael Jordan’s opinion would be interesting, but I don’t think it would define what my decision would be.”

Jasmine Evans, an applied physiology and kinesiology student at UF, said if her favorite celebrity endorsed a political candidate, she wouldn’t be swayed to vote for that candidate unless she knew the reason behind the endorsement.

“My vote is going to be based on my own reasons, not [who] the celebrity is,” she said.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who in many ways has become a political celebrity, was the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday.

Chris Alcantara edited this story online.

About Ethan Magoc

Ethan is a journalist at WUFT News. He's a Pennsylvania native who found a home reporting Florida's stories. Reach him by emailing emagoc@wuft.org or calling 352-294-1525.

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