Half of Americans Believe Celebrities Can Make a Positive Difference When They Support a Cause

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – November 5, 2013 – Whether it’s to spread awareness of a disease or a conflict in another country, or even to help pass or stop a piece of legislation, celebrities get involved in causes hoping that their name recognition will help spur others to also get involved. Tales from Capitol Hill tell of star-struck Representatives and Senators waiting like teenage fans to hopefully meet George Clooney or Angelina Jolie as they testify in hearings on causes near and dear to them. But do these celebrities actually make a difference? Over half of Americans (53%) say that these celebrities can make a large or some positive difference to the cause they are promoting, up from 45% who said this in 2008. Just over one in five (22%) believe these celebrities can make a little positive difference for their cause and just 16% say they make no difference at all, down from 24% who said this in 2008.

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,577 adults surveyed online between September 18 and 24, 2013 by Harris Interactive.

    Many of these causes have a political nature, and Democrats seem to have more star firepower for causes they believe in over Republicans. Maybe this is why two-thirds of Democrats (67%) believe celebrities make a large or some positive difference to their causes, compared to 44% of Republicans who feel this way and 48% of Independents.

    Celebrities may be able to make a positive difference, but can they spur others to support their cause? One in five Americans (19%) say they have gotten more information or done anything to support a cause because of something they heard an actor, singer or other celebrity do, up from 15% who said this in 2008. Actors and singers supporting a cause may be a way to spur younger Americans to get more involved. Over one-quarter of Echo Boomers (27%) say they have done something because of a celebrity, as have 22% of Gen Xers, compared to 15% and 10% of Baby Boomers and Matures, respectively.

    One issue that celebrities also have to deal with can be negative publicity to a cause. Sometimes, these stars can have a scandal or do something that hurts their reputation. Over half of Americans (55%) believe that this negative publicity can be very or somewhat damaging to the issue that celebrity is promoting, while 23% believe it can be a little damaging. Just 7% of Americans believe the negative publicity to a star would be not at all damaging to the cause they were promoting.

    Brangelina on top

    Certain celebrities are known for having more star power than others. And, that can translate into more light shining on a cause they may support. When asked about actors, musicians, athletes and other celebrities who are currently active in championing a cause, over one in ten Americans (12%) say Angelina Jolie has been very effective in raising awareness of her cause, followed by 5% who say Brad Pitt. Next on the list are Michael J. Fox and Bono/U2 (4% each); George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres (3% each); and Jerry Lewis and Marlo Thomas (2% each).

    Celebrities and Politics

    Besides causes, celebrities are also becoming more and more involved in politics – not only at the presidential level, but also at the gubernatorial and senatorial levels. They endorse candidates and appear at events with them, hoping their fans will support their political choices. Americans are divided as to how good an idea this is, with 40% saying it is a bad thing and 38% believing it is a good thing; 22% are not sure if it is a good or bad thing. The star power leans Democratic, so this may be why three in five Democrats (59%) believe it is a good thing, compared to the three in five Republicans (61%) who say it is a bad thing. Among Independents, 44% say it is a bad thing, 33% believe it is a good thing and 24% are not sure.

    And, with this support, there can be a change of viewpoint. Almost three in five Americans (58%) say they believe the support of a celebrity can change a person’s views about which candidate to support, compared to 25% who say this support does not change a person’s view. And here there is partisan alignment, as three in five Republicans (60%) and Democrats (60%), and almost three in five Independents (58%), believe the support of a celebrity changes people’s views about which candidate to support.

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    TABLE 1

    CELEBRITIES MAKING A DIFFERENCE

    Many times celebrities get involved in various causes, including domestic and foreign policies, as well as the prevention and treatment of diseases. How much positive difference do you believe these celebrities can make to the issue they are promoting?

    Base: All U.S. adults

    Total 2008

    Total 2013

    Generation

    Political Party

    Echo Boomers (18-36)

    Gen X. (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Large/Some Difference (NET)

    45

    53

    57

    53

    49

    50

    44

    67

    48

    A large difference

    11

    15

    18

    14

    15

    12

    13

    22

    12

    Some difference

    33

    37

    39

    39

    34

    38

    31

    45

    35

    Little/No Difference (NET)

    51

    38

    33

    37

    39

    46

    48

    26

    42

    A little difference

    27

    22

    23

    19

    23

    22

    28

    16

    26

    No difference at all

    24

    16

    10

    18

    17

    24

    20

    10

    16

    Not sure

    4

    10

    9

    10

    11

    4

    8

    7

    10

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding


    TABLE 2

    SUPPORTING A CAUSE BECAUSE OF A CELEBRITY

    Have you ever gotten more information or done anything to support a cause because of something you heard an actor, singer or other celebrity say or do?

    Base: All U.S. adults

    Total 2008

    Total 2013

    Generation

    Echo Boomers (18-36)

    Gen X. (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Yes

    15

    19

    27

    22

    15

    10

    No

    85

    81

    73

    78

    85

    90

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 3

    VERY EFFECTIVE CELEBRITIES

    Thinking about actors, musicians, athletes and other celebrities who are currently active in championing a cause, which ones do you believe have been very effective in raising awareness of their cause? Please name any that come to mind.

    Base: U.S. adults

    Total 2013

    Generation

    Echo Boomers (18-36)

    Gen X. (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Angelina Jolie

    12

    14

    11

    13

    6

    Brad Pitt

    5

    6

    3

    6

    5

    Michael J. Fox

    4

    4

    5

    4

    5

    Bono/U2

    4

    5

    2

    4

    2

    George Clooney

    3

    3

    4

    4

    3

    Oprah Winfrey

    3

    5

    2

    3

    3

    Ellen DeGeneres

    3

    3

    2

    3

    1

    Jerry Lewis

    2

     

    1

    3

    4

    Marlo Thomas

    2

    1

    3

    2

    Bill and Melinda Gates

    1

    2

    1

    1

    1

    Matt Damon

    1

    2

    1

    1

    1

    Lance Armstrong

    1

    2

    2

     

     

    Gary Sinise

    1

    1

    1

    1

    3

    Halle Berry

    1

    2

     

     

    2

    Lady Gaga

    1

    2

    1

     

     

    Sean Penn

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    Magic Johnson

    1

    1

    1

    1

    1

    Sheryl Crow

    1

    1

     

    1

     

    Sarah McLachlan

    1

    1

    1

     

    Betty White

    1

     

    1

    1

     

    Bon Jovi

    1

    1

    1

    1

     

    Elton John

    1

     

    1

    1

    1

    Others

    32

    34

    31

    30

    30

    Don’t know

    12

    9

    13

    12

    18

    None/no response

    36

    31

    36

    38

    40

    Note: Unprompted responses; Only those responses with at least 1% shown; indicates a response rate of <0.5%

     

    TABLE 4

    CELEBRITIES AND POLITICS

    Besides causes, celebrities have become more and more involved in the politics, endorsing candidates and appearing at events with them. Do you think this is a good or bad thing?

    Base: All US adults

    Total 2013

    Generation

    Political Party

    Echo Boomers (18-36)

    Gen X. (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    GOOD (NET)

    38

    37

    38

    40

    36

    21

    59

    33

    Very good

    9

    7

    8

    10

    9

    3

    16

    6

    Somewhat good

    30

    30

    30

    30

    27

    18

    43

    27

    BAD (NET)

    40

    42

    37

    35

    50

    61

    19

    44

    Somewhat bad

    24

    31

    19

    18

    29

    32

    15

    26

    Very Bad

    16

    12

    18

    16

    21

    29

    5

    17

    Not sure

    22

    21

    25

    26

    14

    18

    22

    24

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding;

     

    TABLE 5

    CELEBRITIES CHANGING POLITICAL VIEWS

    Do you believe that the support of a celebrity changes people’s views about which candidate to support?

    Base: All US adults

    Total 2013

    Generation

    Political Party

    Echo Boomers (18-36)

    Gen X. (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    Rep.

    Dem.

    Ind.

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    CHANGES VIEWS (NET)

    58

    65

    54

    57

    52

    60

    60

    58

    Definitely changes views

    10

    12

    10

    9

    7

    16

    8

    8

    Probably changes views

    48

    53

    43

    48

    45

    45

    52

    50

    DOESN’T CHANGE VIEWS (NET)

    25

    18

    23

    28

    38

    27

    25

    25

    Probably does not change views

    20

    14

    16

    23

    29

    20

    21

    20

    Definitely does not change views

    5

    4

    6

    5

    9

    8

    4

    5

    Not sure

    17

    17

    23

    15

    10

    12

    15

    17

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding;


    TABLE 6

    CELEBRITIES HARMING A CAUSE

    Sometimes a celebrity who is attached to a cause, including domestic and foreign policies as well as the prevention and treatment of diseases, can have a scandal or do something that hurts their reputation. How damaging do you believe these celebrities’ negative publicity can be to the issue they are promoting?

    Base: All U.S. adults

    Total 2013

    Generation

    Echo Boomers (18-36)

    Gen X. (37-48)

    Baby Boomers (49-67)

    Matures (68+)

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Somewhat/Very damaging (NET)

    55

    53

    49

    59

    54

    Very damaging

    20

    15

    21

    23

    20

    Somewhat damaging

    35

    39

    28

    36

    34

    Not at all/A little damaging (NET)

    29

    32

    29

    26

    35

    A little damaging

    23

    26

    21

    21

    26

    Not at all damaging

    7

    6

    8

    5

    9

    Not sure

    16

    15

    23

    15

    11

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between September 18 to 24, 2013 among 2,577 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

    J43565

    Q1005, 1010, 1015, 10200, 1025, 1030

    The Harris Poll® #78, November 5, 2013

    By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll and Public Relations, Harris Interactive

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