Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-cf9d5c678-7bjf6 Total loading time: 0.282 Render date: 2021-07-28T21:40:31.415Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Don’t Republicans Tweet Too? Using Twitter to Assess the Consequences of Political Endorsements by Celebrities

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 September 2019


Michael Jordan supposedly justified his decision to stay out of politics by noting that Republicans buy sneakers too. In the social media era, the name of the game for celebrities is engagement with fans. So why then do celebrities risk talking about politics on social media, which is likely to antagonize a portion of their fan base? With this question in mind, we analyze approximately 220,000 tweets from 83 celebrities who chose to endorse a presidential candidate in the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign to assess whether there is a cost—defined in terms of engagement on Twitter—for celebrities who discuss presidential candidates. We also examine whether celebrities behave similarly to other campaign surrogates in being more likely to take on the “attack dog” role by going negative more often than going positive. More specifically, we document how often celebrities of distinct political preferences tweet about Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton, and we show that followers of opinionated celebrities do not withhold engagement when entertainers become politically mobilized and do indeed often go negative. Interestingly, in some cases political content from celebrities actually turns out to be more popular than typical lifestyle tweets.

Special Section: Celebrities and Politics
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2019 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Data replication sets are available at


Ansolabehere, S. and Iyengar, S.. 1997. Going Negative: How Political Advertisements Shrink and Polarize the Electorate. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.Google Scholar
Austin, E. W., Vord, R. V. D., Pinkleton, B. E., and Epstein, E.. 2008. “Celebrity Endorsements and their Potential to Motivate Young Voters.” Mass Communication and Society 11(4): 420–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Baum, M. A. and Jamison, A. S.. 2006. “The Oprah Effect: How Soft News Helps Inattentive Citizens Vote Consistently.” Journal of Politics 68(4): 946–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bode, L. (2016). “Political News in the News Feed: Learning Politics from Social Media.” Mass Communication and Society 19(1): 2448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Delli Carpini, M. X. and Williams, B. A.. 2001. “Let Us Infotain You: Politics in the New Media Age.” In Mediated Politics: Communication in the Future of Democracy, eds. Bennett, L. and Entman, R., 160–81. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Duffy, B. E. and Hund, E.. 2015. “‘Having It All’ on Social Media: Entrepreneurial Femininity and Self-Branding among Fashion Bloggers.” Social Media+ Society 1(2). doi: 10.1177/2056305115604337.Google Scholar
Fahy, D. 2015. The New Celebrity Scientists: Out of the Lab and into the Limelight. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
Feezell, J. T. 2018. “Agenda Setting through Social Media: The Importance of Incidental News Exposure and Social Filtering in the Digital Era.” Political Research Quarterly 71(2): 482–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gabler, N. 2011. Life: The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
Garthwaite, C. and Moore, T. J.. 2012. “Can Celebrity Endorsements Affect Political Outcomes? Evidence from the 2008 US Democratic Presidential Primary.” Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization 29(2): 355–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Groeling, T. 2010. When Politicians Attack: Party Cohesion in the Media. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gross, J. H. and Johnson, K. T.. 2016. “Twitter Taunts and Tirades: Negative Campaigning in the Age of Trump.PS: Political Science & Politics 49(4): 748–54.Google Scholar
Haselmayer, M., Meyer, T. M., and Wagner, M.. 2019. “Fighting for Attention: Media Coverage of Negative Campaign Messages.” Party Politics 25(3): 412–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hetherington, M. J., & Weiler, J. D.. 2009. Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Holt, D. 2016. “Branding in the Age of Social Media.” Harvard Business Review 94(3): 4050.Google Scholar
Jackson, D. J. 2008. “Selling Politics: The Impact Of Celebrities’ Political Beliefs on Young Americans.” Journal of Political Marketing 6(4): 6783.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jackson, D. J. and Darrow, T. I.. 2005. “The Influence of Celebrity Endorsements on Young Adults’ Political Opinions.” Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics 10(3): 8098.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kurzman, C., Anderson, C., Key, C., Lee, Y. O., Moloney, M., Silver, A., and Van Ryn, M. W.. 2007. “Celebrity Status.” Sociological Theory 25(4): 347–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lasorsa, D. L., Lewis, S. C., and Holton, A. E.. 2012. “Normalizing Twitter: Journalism Practice in an Emerging Communication Space.” Journalism Studies 13(1): 1936.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lau, R. R., Sigelman, L., Heldman, C., and Babbitt, P.. 1999. “The Effects of Negative Political Advertisements: A Meta-Analytic Assessment.” American Political Science Review 93(4): 851–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lau, R. R., Sigelman, L., and Rovner, I. B.. 2007. “The Effects of Negative Political Campaigns: A Meta‐Analytic Reassessment.” Journal of Politics 69(4): 11761209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lawrence, R. G., Molyneux, L., Coddington, M., and Holton, A.. 2014. “Tweeting Conventions: Political Journalists’ Use of Twitter to Cover the 2012 Presidential Campaign.” Journalism Studies 15(6): 789806.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Layman, G. C., Carsey, T. M., and Horowitz, J. M.. 2006. “Party Polarization in American Politics: Characteristics, Causes, and Consequences.” Annual Review of Political Science 9: 83110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Leas, E. C., Althouse, B. M., Dredze, M., Obradovich, N., Fowler, J. H., Noar, S. M., et al. 2016 Big “Data Sensors of Organic Advocacy: The Case of Leonardo DiCaprio and Climate Change.” PLoS ONE 11(8): e0159885.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Littler, J. 2007. “Celebrity CEOs and the Cultural Economy of Tabloid Intimacy.” In Stardom and Celebrity: A Reader, eds. Redmond, S. and Holmes, S., 230–43. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marland, A. and Lalancette, M.. 2014. “Access Hollywood: Celebrity Endorsements in American Politics.” In Political Marketing in the United States, eds. Lees-Marshment, J., Conley, B., and Cosgrove, K., 130–47. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Marsh, D., Hart, P., and Tindall, K.. 2010Celebrity Politics: The Politics of the Late Modernity?Political Studies Review 8(3): 322–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marshall, P. D. 2014. Celebrity and Power: Fame in Contemporary Culture, 2nd edition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marwick, A. E. 2013. Status Update: Celebrity, Publicity, and Branding in the Social Media Age. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Marwick, A. E. and boyd, d.. 2011. “I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter Users, Context Collapse, and the Imagined Audience.” New Media & Society 13(1): 114–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McGregor, S. C. and Molyneux, L.. 2018. “Twitter’s Influence on News Judgment: An Experiment among Journalists.” Journalism. doi: 10.1177/1464884918802975.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Patterson, T. E. 2016. News Coverage of the 2016 General Election: How the Press Failed the Voters. Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. (accessed May 8, 2018).Google Scholar
Pease, A. and Brewer, P. R.. 2008. “The Oprah Factor: The Effects of a Celebrity Endorsement in a Presidential Primary Campaign.” International Journal of Press/Politics 13(4): 386400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Pew Research Center. 2017. Partisan Conflict and Congressional Outreach. (accessed May 8, 2018).Google Scholar
Prior, M. 2007. Post-Broadcast Democracy: How Media Choice Increases Inequality in Political Involvement and Polarizes Elections. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rojek, C. 2004. Celebrity. London: Reaktion Books.Google Scholar
Street, J. 2012. “Do Celebrity Politics and Celebrity Politicians Matter?British Journal of Politics & International Relations 14(3): 346–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Street, J. 2018. “What Is Donald Trump? Forms of ‘Celebrity’ in Celebrity Politics.” Political Studies Review. doi: 10.1177/1478929918772995.Google Scholar
Thrall, A. T., Lollio-Fakhreddine, J., Berent, J., Donnelly, L., Herrin, W., Paquette, Z.,. ... & Wyatt, A.. 2008. “Star Power: Celebrity Advocacy and the Evolution of the Public Sphere.” International Journal of Press/Politics 13(4): 362–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tucker, J. A., Guess, A., Barbera, P., Vaccari, C., Siegel, A., Sanovich, S., Stukal, D., and Nyhan, B.. 2018. Social Media, Political Polarization, and Political Disinformation: A Review of the Scientific Literature. or Scholar
Turner, G. 2014. Understanding Celebrity. Thousand Oaks, CA: SageCrossRefGoogle Scholar
Turner, G., Bonner, F., and Marshall, P. D.. 2000. Fame Games: The Production of Celebrity in Australia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Vaccari, C., Valeriani, A., Barberá, P., Bonneau, R., Jost, J. T., Nagler, J., and Tucker, J. A.. 2015. “Political Expression and Action on Social Media: Exploring the Relationship between Lower-and Higher-Threshold Political Activities among Twitter Users in Italy.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 20(2): 221–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Valeriani, A. and Vaccari, C.. 2016. “Accidental Exposure to Politics on Social Media as Online Participation Equalizer in Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom.” New Media & Society 18(9): 1857–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Veer, E., Becirovic, I., and Martin, B. A.. 2010. “If Kate Voted Conservative, Would You? The Role of Celebrity Endorsements in Political Party Advertising.” European Journal of Marketing 44(3/4): 436–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Watts, D. and Rothschild, D.. 2017. “Don’t Blame the Election on Fake News. Blame It on the Media.” Columbia Journalism Review, September 17.Google Scholar
Webster, J. G. 2014. The Marketplace of Attention: How Audiences Take Shape in a Digital Age. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wernick, A. 1988. “Promotional Culture.” Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory 12(1–2): 180201.Google Scholar
Xenos, M. A., Macafee, T., and Pole, A.. 2017. “Understanding Variations in User Response to Social Media Campaigns: A Study of Facebook Posts in the 2010 US Elections.” New Media & Society 19(6): 826–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zaller, J. 1992. The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Zhang, Y., Wells, C., Wang, S., and Rohe, K.. 2018. “Attention and Amplification in the Hybrid Media System: The Composition and Activity of Donald Trump’s Twitter Following during the 2016 Presidential Election.” New Media & Society 20(9): 3161–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Supplementary material: Link

Zilinsky et al. Dataset

Supplementary material: PDF

Zilinsky et al. supplementary material

Zilinsky et al. supplementary material 1

Download Zilinsky et al. supplementary material(PDF)
Supplementary material: PDF

Zilinsky et al. supplementary material

Zilinsky et al. supplementary material 2

Download Zilinsky et al. supplementary material(PDF)

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Don’t Republicans Tweet Too? Using Twitter to Assess the Consequences of Political Endorsements by Celebrities
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Don’t Republicans Tweet Too? Using Twitter to Assess the Consequences of Political Endorsements by Celebrities
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Don’t Republicans Tweet Too? Using Twitter to Assess the Consequences of Political Endorsements by Celebrities
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *