The Oprah Factor in Campaign '08: Do Political Endorsements Matter?

Source Organization: Pew Research Center


09/20/2007 - Hillary Clinton continues to lead Barack Obama by a wide margin in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. But Obama has something Clinton doesn't have – the support of Oprah Winfrey. Winfrey endorsed Obama in May of this year and recently held a fundraiser for him at her Malibu, Calif. home. While political endorsements generally have little impact on voter preferences, there is no telling whether Winfrey can do for Obama what she has done for the countless books and products she's endorsed over the years.

When compared with several other celebrities and public figures, Winfrey is more influential than most, ranking on a par with Bill Gates and slightly behind Alan Greenspan. But most Americans say endorsements by celebrities and other well-known figures, including Oprah, would not affect their voting decisions: Nearly seven-in-ten Americans (69%) say that if they heard Winfrey was supporting a presidential candidate it would not influence their vote. And among those who do see an impact, the net expected effects are so mixed as to cancel each other out: Among the 30% who say they would be influenced by a Winfrey endorsement, 15% say they would be more likely to vote for the candidate and 15% say they would be less likely to do so.

While most Americans say Winfrey's endorsement of a generic candidate would not influence their own vote, 60% believe her support for Obama will help his candidacy. Only 3% think her support will hurt Obama's candidacy, and 31% say it won't make any difference. Nearly two-thirds of Americans have heard about Winfrey's decision to support Obama – 16% have heard a lot, 46% have heard a little.

Read the full report at the Pew Research Center for People and the Press Web site.

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