Are Voters Influenced by Celebrity Politics?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," Oct. 28, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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EMINEM VIDEO: We will march to respond, we will march to remorse; take us right through the doors, come on.

And it's...


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: That is rapper Eminem (search) joining Bruce Springsteen (search) and other liberal voices raising their voices against President Bush. Young actors like Leonardo DiCaprio (search) and Ashton Kutcher (search) saying, "We're not dumb" are also out there campaigning for Senator Kerry.

President Bush has some star power behind him too. Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling (search) is joining him on the campaign trail tomorrow. Is anybody listening? Let's ask Fairfield University Political Science Professor John Orman (search), author of the book "Celebrity Politics."

Dr. Orman, the big question: are voters influenced by celebrity endorsements?

DR. JOHN ORMAN, FAIRFIELD UNIVERSITY, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR: Well, John — good to be here with you today — but really not in terms of voting. What celebrities do, they bring a buzz to the campaign, they raise money, and they really capture the attention of the media.

One thing we know, the people who are listening are members of the media. Eminem drops a video officially not released until after the election and I've seen it many different times on many different channels. So, obviously in our political culture, celebrities rule and we give them a disproportionate amount of political coverage than they actually deserve.

GIBSON: OK. One of your colleagues in the academic community, a guy I like a lot named Victor Davis Hanson was writing a day or so ago in the "San Francisco Chronicle" and the way he talks about this is there are these elites, like actors and rich people like George Soros, who have opinions and they foist them off on the people and the people don't listen and the elites are mad.

And this is one of the things Dr. Hanson said. Let me quote it for you and you can tell me what you think. "Their attitude is, how can a tongue-tied George W. Bush and his cronies so easily fool Americans when novelists, actor, singers, comedians, and venture capitalists have spent so much time and money warning them of their danger?"

And Dr. Hanson says that those people are being ignored and that it makes them madder and it makes them angrier and that what we're seeing right now is them fuming. Do you agree with him?

ORMAN: Well, if the doctor had considered it, we have Republicans and Democrats and liberals and conservatives. Conservative Republicans really hate the liberal Democrat celebrities and they think people like Susan Sarandon and Michael Moore and Tim Robbins and Bono and are just crazy. On the other hand, liberal Democrats dislike the conservative Republican celebrities.

One of the big problems that they have with conservative Republican celebrities is they actually run and win elections, like Arnold, we had Jack Kemp, we've had a number of NASCAR drivers come out and support the president.

So basically, there's celebrity on both sides and both sides: republicans and democratic party have a group called Celebrity Coordinators: they go out of their way to make the candidate appear cool. And basically, if you're a republican and you hear a liberal Democrat celebrity, you're going to turn that person off. And if you're Democrat and you hear Arnold at a rally telling you who to vote for, you're not going to be influenced by Arnold.

GIBSON: Yes. But I don't think — let's say Curt Schilling, for example, comes out in favor of Bush. I haven't heard him say, "I'm going to move to France if Kerry wins." And yet, only today George Soros, the celebrity billionaire venture capitalist, hedge fund operator said if Bush won, he was going to go to a monastery and contemplate what's wrong with us.

Why is it these people are so angry and fuming that they are not being listened to?

ORMAN: John, I think it's on both sides. If you remember the Republican National Convention, Arnold suggested that John Kerry wouldn't defend us against a terrorist attack. So, basically celebrities get a disproportionate amount of media coverage; they know the pop culture system has eaten the political system; they're going to get a lot of coverage for what they say.

And so, it breaks down on both sides, I think.

GIBSON: Is there a backfire danger here to Eminem spouting off?

ORMAN: Well, yes, Eminem is almost sort of like a cartoon character now. When you have kids in the third and fourth grade who think that Eminem is really cool and their older brothers and sisters don't think he has much street credibility, here he is once again, trying to come out — it's a good hip-hop tune and a good rap tune, but it has nothing really to do with this election.

It came out way too late. It couldn't possibly influence anybody other than members of the national media who cover it and give him widespread play for having made a political statement.

GIBSON: Dr. John Orman, author of the book, "Celebrity Politics." Dr. Orman, thanks very much. Appreciate it.

ORMAN: Thanks a lot, John.

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