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The "O" Factor: Celebrity Endorsements
December 14, 2007

Oprah Winfrey's endorsement of Barack Obama dominated news coverage for days — and spawned a wealth of predictions, polls and statistical studies. Pundits are torn: Will Oprah's endorsement do for Obama what her book club choice did for Tolstoy? Or are the polls on the newstickers touting the "Bill effect" or an Oprah backlash on the mark?

Of course politics watchers have tried to calculate the effect of celebrity on campaigns and popularity for decades, if not centuries. Writers, war-heros, actors, artists and the just plain famous have long lent their names and power to political movements, and political players — with varying success. This year FORTUNE magazine started early — questioning adults on the positive or negative effects of certain celeb endorsements. Tom Hanks moves you up in the polls; Tom Cruise, down. Find out more below.

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Published on December 14, 2007

References and Reading:
The "O" Factor

"The celebrity primary," THE ECONOMIST, September 13th, 2007
Early on the British-based ECONOMIST took stock of America's love of celebrity politics, speculating that "Mr Obama, who is running to the left of Mrs Clinton, has less to gain from fawning celebrities — and potentially more to lose. Stardust is good, but too much can make a liberal politician seem other-worldly. That would not play well at the box office."

"Celebrity Power?" David A. Andelman, FORBES, October 17, 2007
FORBES magazine engaged in some pre-election statistical analysis of celebrity power, asking a selection of 2,213 men and women over the age of 18 how they would respond — positively or negatively — if certain celebrities were to endorse a political candidate. "The six who would have the most positive impact on the image of a candidate with whom they associated were Oprah, on top, followed by Tom Hanks, George Clooney, Jon Stewart of THE DAILY SHOW, Angelina Jolie and Tiger Woods. On the negative side, our poll shows politicians should be avoiding the likes of Rosie O'Donnell, Tom Cruise, Madonna, Jane Fonda, Donald Trump and Susan Sarandon."

"Poll: Oprah could have negative effect on Obama" CNN, December 11, 2007
"According a New York Times/CBS News poll released Monday, only 1 percent of Democrats polled reported that Winfrey's endorsement would make them more likely to support Obama, while 14 percent said they would be less likely to vote for the candidate because of Winfrey's support."

"Bill Beats Oprah with Black Voters": BET News
In her blog, BET's Senior Political News Producer Pamela Gentry assesses the mass of numbers crunching on the Oprah effect: "I'm not sure any celeb can deliver votes. be done, my money is on Winfrey. What we know so far is that she has done a better job than any other celebrity can do: provide up-close exposure of her candidate to tens of thousands of people in just three appearances in as many days."

"Oprah and Obama Tour Early-Voting States," NPR
NPR's ongoing coverage of the "O" effect on the Democratic primary race.

"Obama and the Oprah effect" Rajesh Mirchandani, BBC NEWS,
Get the view from abroad with the BBC's coverage of the primary season.

"Winfrey's endorsement means more than most," THE DES MOINES REGISTER, Erin Crawford, December 8, 2007
"Oprah Winfrey persuaded thousands of readers to purchase copies of the 464-page translation of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE. In comparison, how hard a sell can Sen. Barack Obama for president be?" The REGISTER also lists the celebrity endorsements of other candidates.

History of Celebrity Politics

"The birth of modern campaigning," BBC NEWS, Brian Wheeler, March 27, 2007
During its look back at the centenary of the abolition movement in Britain, the BBC documents some of the first celebrity endorsements. Not only did Josiah Wedgwood's iconic seal serve as a powerful logo, but renowned artists JMW Turner and William Blake lent their talents to the cause.

When Elvis Met Nixon
The National Archives has put together a multi-media walk through the famous meeting. You can read Elvis' original letter, view the White House meeting agenda and meeting notes, and view dozens of photos.

The companion site for the documentary tells the story of Mark Twain's relationship with the president. You can read the book of Grant's memoirs published by Twain online: PERSONAL MEMOIRS OF U.S. GRANT.

Also This Week:

Bill Moyers talks with host of MSNBC's COUNTDOWN with Keith Olbermann about the relationships between politics and journalism.

A report on the debate around relaxing ownership rules and a look at the real-world implications of increasing cross-ownership of newspapers and broadcast outlets in the same markets.

The director of the African American Leadership Center at the University of Maryland on how race is playing out in the campaign.

Celebrity slideshow: What's the real power of 'power' endorsements?

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