Stillwater News Press

Our World

October 9, 2012

Study: Politically outspoken celebrities will see likability ratings fall

In this presidential election season, when celebrities endorse candidates while talking to empty chairs, engage in political debates on Twitter and encourage the rest of us to vote via cleverly edited YouTube clips, a new university study suggests that, perhaps, they might all be better off keeping their mouths shut.

The study, to be published in an issue of the journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology, suggests that the more the public knows about celebrities' personal opinions, the less inclined we are to like the celebrities, particularly if we discover that their views differ from our own. Which, perhaps, is common sense. But thanks to this study, it's now science.

Professors at the universities of New Hampshire, Utah and Cincinnati and at Vanderbilt University staged two experiments in which college students' responses to celebrity-related information were assessed. The key part, from my perspective, was the portion that gauged reaction to movie stars who fall on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum: Tom Hanks and Mel Gibson.

 Wait, Mel Gibson? The guy who once called a female police officer a name that begins with "Sugar-" and ends in a word not allowed in this newspaper? The man whose explosive arguments with ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva were spewed all over the Internet two years ago? Doesn't his involvement in this scholarly endeavor nullify its results?

Actually, no, says Bruce Pfeiffer, one of the researchers and a marketing professor at the University of New Hampshire, who notes that the students were surveyed before the whole Gibson/Grigorieva mess.

As for the other baggage Gibson brings to the table regarding alleged anti-Semitism and weird interviews with Diane Sawyer, Pfeiffer said it did not seem to affect the participants' overall view of him. "Although his average rating was less positive than Tom Hanks, his overall evaluation was still positive," the professor said via e-mail.

 The subjects were asked to read general statements about the careers of both Forrest Gump and Mad Max, then to peruse specific statements about their religious and political views. (Hanks was identified as a Democrat who supports gay marriage and who converted from Roman Catholicism to Eastern Orthodox Christianity when he married Rita Wilson. Gibson was characterized as a Republican who is anti-abortion and a "Traditionalist Catholic.")

Across the board, subjects thought of both men less favorably once they read these details, but self-identified conservatives disliked Tom Hanks even more strongly, while self-identified liberals had the same response to Gibson. The upshot: We all think beloved actors are "just like us" until we find out they're not. Then we don't care for them as much.

 But wait a second. Plenty of celebs are involved in political causes, and they still seem pretty well-liked. Pfeiffer's response: "The bottom line is that stating a belief is fine, as long as very few people disagree with it. Taking a stand on an issue on which there is disagreement will usually result in overall harm to a celebrity's status among some consumers." In other words, it's fine to tell people to vote in a nonpartisan way. But if you tell them who to vote for, well, some people might decide they don't want to see "Trouble With the Curve" or watch "Glee" anymore.

 One sticking point in all this is social media, which looms even larger in the celebrity sphere than it did two-plus years ago, when the experiments were conducted. Famous people say potentially polarizing and unlikable things on Twitter all the time and, while it occasionally elicits a negative response, it doesn't seem to have a long-term effect on their success. If it did, John Cusack and Patricia Heaton would no longer be working, and both of them definitely are.

 Pfeiffer acknowledges that the direct online connections between fans and their idols might be changing the game somewhat, but "the processes we describe in our research are fundamental, and we believe that people would behave the same way in a decade."

We'll check back in 10 years and see whether that's still true. And whether we all feel the same way about Hanks and Gibson.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Our World
  • McCain 1 House Republicans are more active on Twitter than Democrats

    Your representative in the House is almost certainly on Twitter. Your senator definitely is. But how are they using the social network? Are Democrats more active than Republicans, or vice versa? Who has the most followers on the Hill?

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • VIDEO: Moose charges snowmobile, flees after warning shot

    While snowmobiling in New England, Bob and Janis Powell of Maine were charged by a moose and caught the entire attack on camera.

    April 22, 2014

  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 21, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 17, 2014

  • Doctors to rate cost effectiveness of expensive cancer drugs

    The world's largest organization of cancer doctors plans to rate the cost effectiveness of expensive oncology drugs, and will urge physicians to use the ratings to discuss the costs with their patients.

    April 17, 2014

  • Why Facebook is getting into the banking game

    Who would want to use Facebook as a bank? That's the question that immediately arises from news that the social network intends to get into the electronic money business.

    April 16, 2014

  • Victimized by the 'marriage penalty'

    In a few short months, I'll pass the milestone that every little girl dreams of: the day she swears - before family and God, in sickness and in health, all in the name of love - that she's willing to pay a much higher tax rate.

    April 16, 2014

  • portraitoflotte.jpg VIDEO: From infant to teen in four minutes

    Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester’s time lapse video of his daughter, Lotte — created by filming her every week from her birth until she turned 14 — has become a viral sensation.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • bomb1 VIDEO: A year after marathon bombing, Boston remains strong

    The City of Boston came together Tuesday to honor those who were injured and lost their lives at the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary of the bombing. While the day was sure to be emotional, those affected by last year's race are showing they won't let the tragedy keep them down.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Teens trading naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 12, 2014

Must Read
Buy & Share Photos
NewsPress e-Edition
NewsPress Specials
AP Video
Bon Jovi Helps Open Low-income Housing in Philly Pipeline Opponents Protest on National Mall Hagel Gets Preview of New High-tech Projects S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart New Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees Named 'Piles' of Bodies in South Sudan Slaughter New Yorkers Celebrate Cherry Blossom Blooms SCOTUS Hears Tv-over-Internet Case Justice Dept. Broadening Criteria for Clemency Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers 'Miss Meadows' Takes Holmes Back to Her Roots Biden: Russia Must Stop Talking, Start Acting David Moyes Out As Manchester United Manager Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet Stowaway Teen Forces Review of Airport Security
Stocks
NDN Video
Viral: It's Not Pitbull - It's Amy Poehler! Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Jenna Dewan-Tatum Strips Down Rise of the Milkbots TRENDING: Brian Williams Raps 'Gin and Juice' on ‘Tonight Show’ Middle School heroes rescue students from burning bus WHOPPER OF FISHING STORY: Florida man catches massive Mako shark Maks Chmerkovskiy's "DWTS" Meltdown The many faces of Mike Woodson Ape Builds A Fire And Toasts Marshmallows In Amazing BBC Video Manchester Utd sack manager David Moyes "RHOA's" Dramatic Brawl High school, College Drug Ring Busted In Montgomery County High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet Raw: Keflezighi, Jeptoo Win Boston Marathon Teen hitchhikes in wheel well of flight from California to Hawaii Lindsay Lohan's Jaw-Dropping Secret President Sends Message To Boston And Marathon Runners LA Pastor Attracts Churchgoers with Pot Lauren Stoner Shows Off Her Incredible Bikini Body