Is it possible for Taylor Swift to influence the 2024 presidential election?

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Swift’s viewpoint is unlikely to change the minds of people who are undecided between Trump and Biden, but her influence might increase turnout.

Ten years ago, Taylor Swift enjoyed making fun of a Jonas brother in public for calling her out on the phone. Her remarks could now decide how US democracy develops.

US Election 2024: Why Taylor Swift is making headlines amid Donald Trump vs  Joe Biden battle | 5 reasons | Mint

Swift’s support has grown in value over the past few weeks, making it one of the most sought-after—and hotly contested—prizes in the 2024 presidential fight. It was alleged by the New York Times that Donald Trump’s associates launched a “holy war” on Swift in an attempt to restrict Joe Biden’s reelection campaign. While Fox News pundits urged Swift to stay out of politics, a significant portion of right-wingers descended into conspiracy theories, believing that Swift is a secret tool supporting Biden, that she and her boyfriend Travis Kelce are part of a plot to support Biden, and that the Super Bowl, in which Kelce will play tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs, is being orchestrated to support Biden.

It may look completely out of touch to be that fervent. Can a pop artist from a Pennsylvania Christmas tree farm really win or lose the 2024 presidential election, no matter how popular she is?

Can Taylor Swift juggernaut sway 2024 US polls? Experts weigh in -  Hindustan Times

Interviews with professionals, those who consider themselves as Swift admirers, and people who claim they don’t care for Swift reveal that the answer is surprisingly complicated. Although it is unlikely that Swift’s viewpoint would convince a voter divided between backing Biden and Trump—assuming such a person even exists—she is considerably more likely to increase voter turnout. Additionally, the Swift electorate might be the deciding factor if the rematch between the two politicians—who still need to win their primaries—becomes tight.

“People with that much political influence, like Taylor Swift, are not someone we are used to seeing. It could be unsettling. Ashley Hinck, an associate professor at Xavier University whose book Politics for the Love of Fandom explores the connections between fandom, politics, and civic engagement, said, “We’re not used to female fandoms, perhaps, having that much political power.” Pundits, lawmakers, commentators, and common people are adjusting to a new political culture in different ways. It’s new to you if you’re not a part of it, but it’s been around for a while. It has been expanding for a while now.

As Swift might say, it’s been a long time coming.

A lack of persuasion

Video How Taylor Swift could influence the 2024 election - ABC News

Swift first waded into politics in 2018, when she broke her career-long silence on politics to urge fans to vote for Democrats in a Tennessee election. Although one of Swift’s preferred candidates lost to the Republican Marsha Blackburn, Swift endorsed Biden in 2020. She has also continued to tell fans to vote in subsequent elections, and voter registration has soared by the tens of thousands after each of her get-out-the-vote Instagram posts.

Her fanbase is staggeringly large, with 53% of Americans saying they are fans and 16% identifying as “avid fans”, according to a March 2023 Morning Consult poll. (That poll was conducted before the launch of Swift’s world-conquering Eras Tour, which has become the highest-grossing tour of all time and reportedly made Swift a billionaire.)

However, Swift’s fanbase is not evenly distributed across the US political spectrum: 55% of her self-avowed avid fans identify as Democrats, while 23% are Republicans and 23% are independents.

Although a November 2023 NBC News poll found that 40% of registered voters said they had a positive view of Swift – more than any other figure included in the survey, including Biden, Kamala Harris and Beyoncé – Democrats are still more likely than Republicans to say that they like Swift. Fifty-three per cent of Democrats said that they had a positive view of Swift, while just 28% of Republicans say the same. Compared to Democrats, Republicans are also five times more likely to have a negative opinion of Swift.

Experts caution that it is exceedingly difficult to ever pinpoint what makes someone choose one candidate over another. David James Jackson, a Bowling Green State University professor who has studied the effect of celebrity endorsements, was skeptical of the idea that Swift could flip Republicans for Biden.

“If the policy position is already popular among the group that I’m surveying, the celebrity endorsement makes it more popular. If it’s unpopular, it makes it less unpopular, but it doesn’t actually make it popular,” Jackson said. But, he added: “Are American elections really about persuasion any more?”

Jackson continued: “If in fact it turns out to be a Biden-Trump rematch, how many people really haven’t formed an opinion about either of those two?”

Despite Swift’s relative lack of popularity among Republicans, the rightwing attacks on her may still backfire, according to Jasmine Amussen, a 34-year-old librarian who lives in Georgia.

“I really don’t think that they understand that when they’re attacking Taylor Swift, they are actually talking about the millions of millennial women – mostly white – [in her fanbase]. But they’re attacking their own daughters,” Amussen said of Republicans. “I think they’re so confused as to how this 34-year-old woman is a billionaire, is unmarried. They just can’t see past that to the underlying source of her power, which is the people who love her.”

Trump pressured Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” about 11,000 votes when he wanted to win the state in the 2020 election, as Amussen pointed out. The margins of the 2024 elections could be equally small, and a Swift endorsement could make the difference in turnout.

“She can find 11,000 people to go vote when they didn’t before or vote when they hadn’t in a long time,” Amussen said. “All it takes is a couple hundred women who were not interested before seeing these much older – gross, honestly – men talk about someone they respect and admire in that way.”

‘It will affect young people’

Nearly 500 people responded to a Guardian survey about their thoughts on Swift’s political influence. Asked whether a Swift endorsement could influence their vote, most respondents said no. They frequently said that they already agreed with Swift’s suspected liberal politics or that they were not swayed by celebrity endorsements.

But respondents often said that other voters may be more susceptible. “I’m not influenced by her, but my kids’ generation is,” one person from Massachusetts wrote. “I’m much too well informed,” someone from Colorado added. “But it WILL affect young people.”

This kind of attitude is possibly an example of what Desirée Schmuck called “the third person” effect.

“People always think that there’s a stronger impact on others than on themselves,” said Schmuck, a professor from the University of Vienna who has studied how parasocial relationships influence youth political behavior.

“We see that in interviews, they do agree that influencers have changed their behavior, not necessarily voting behavior, but rather what they buy or what they boycott, for instance, for political reasons,” Schmuck said. “With voting, like with all behavior, there’s not enough introspection to really know what was it in the end that caused you to do something. I don’t think people want to pin it down to one factor, because they don’t want to be that simple.”

The responses to the Guardian’s survey, although extensive, by no means constitute a representative or scientific study. The survey design would probably draw in people who already have strong opinions about Swift, whether negative or positive. (A surprising number of people took the time to fill out a totally voluntary survey only to insist they had no thoughts on Swift. “Do not care about her or her opinions,” one 84-year-old from Georgia wrote.)

Still, some academic studies have indeed uncovered a connection between celebrity endorsements and voter activity. A study that Schmuck worked on found that a German influencer’s efforts to associate the climate crisis with the European Union elections – “a boring election for young people”, Schmuck said – was linked to a boost in youth voter turnout. Another study, which examined Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of Barack Obama before the 2008 presidential primary, uncovered that Winfrey’s support led to 1m extra votes for Obama.

Some people in the Guardian survey did say that Swift’s opinions may influence their behavior, if not their vote.

“If she came up and she said, ‘Here’s the guy running against Marsha Blackburn and I think we should really support this person,’ I would cut that person a check,” said Michael Dee, who works in investment banking in Dallas, Texas, and is deeply involved in politics. He knows he’s voting for Biden but, he said, “Taylor can highlight some candidates to help them raise money and I think that would be … a very good thing.”

Ultimately, complicating every calculation about Swift and her endorsement’s power is the singularity of her status. Arguably, the last time musicians commanded this much attention, they were the Beatles, they were men, and there were four of them.

The Beatles were also only a band for less than a decade, while Swift has been in the public eye for almost two. Many Americans started to form emotional ties to her long before they could vote.

“I’ve never seen a potential endorsement be so anticipated as this one,” Jackson said.


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