ANALYSIS: Kyree Sawyer examines how LeBron James’ social media platform influenced voters in the 2020 Election.
With the internet being a mega-platform for information, celebrities are now some of the most influential people in the world. Celebrity posts on social media alter how a person lives their everyday life and can even impact their political views. The history of celebrity endorsements goes back to the birth of modern celebrity. Warren Harding won the 1920 US presidential campaign with backing from film stars of the day. And over the past century, celebrity endorsements have increasingly saturated the political campaign scene.
Celebrities attract attention to candidates, get people excited about voting, and can sway the public’s opinion. A recent study conducted by Whitman Insight Strategies and MRC Data in partnership with DISQO even measured the intersection of entertainment, influence and politics among 1,103 likely voters.
In order to attract support for a candidate, a celebrity must have three qualities: they must be well-known, well-liked, and credible. Some influencers that obtain all three qualities are people like Oprah Winfrey, Beyoncé, and LeBron James. In the 2008 presidential election, Oprah Winfrey was credited for bringing Barack Obama worldwide attention. Research conducted by the University of Maryland credits Oprah with bringing Barack Obama more than a million votes in the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary process. This is an example of a celebrity intertwining popularity with politics.
The 2020 presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was an election for the ages. With the election going on during a worldwide pandemic, people turned to social media for almost everything, even political updates on candidates. This brought celebrities to the forefront of the presidential election and gave them the power to influence people’s views on candidates. With all the celebrities swaying the public’s political opinions on candidates, LeBron James stood out the most this election.
In this photograph that LeBron James posted to his Instagram stories (74.7 million followers) during the presidential debate, he covered Donald Trump’s face with the clown emoji. LeBron James is an A-list celebrity who has had a huge impact not only on the black community but the entire world of sports fans since he was 15 years old. With him posting things of this nature and providing his views on the election, this can cause a fan or two to change their opinions on who to vote for. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “James was found to be the most influential with 36% of those surveyed saying he had done the most to raise awareness and to motivate people to vote.”
Lloyd Middlebrooks, FTC men’s basketball player commented on James, “He did influence my selection for who I thought would be a better president because LeBron is someone I looked up to for years and I’ve valued his opinion my whole life. Also, because he is defined as one of our black leaders and someone who is highly respected around the world, I trust in what he promotes because he is such an iconic figure to our culture.”
Jami Cardenas from Farmingdale State College agreed, “I usually don’t see LeBron openly speak about politics on social media. Seeing him post that picture on Instagram made me want to take action and support him. He has been one of my role models growing up, and I’ve paid attention to what he does or does not believe in simply because he doesn’t openly speak politics often.”
Chris Gardner from the Hollywoodreporter.com highlighted the Whitman Insight Strategies study, “Overall, 12 percent of voters reported that an entertainer or athlete influenced their thinking regarding the election. Influence is higher among Black voters (28 percent), Hispanic/Latino voters (20 percent), LGBTQ (17 percent), Gen Z and Millennials (both 17 percent). Asked to name the person whose opinion they trusted the most regarding political or social issues in America, [Tom] Hanks came in first among total voters by tallying 49 percent. He was followed closely by [Dwayne] Johnson with 45 percent, [Oprah] Winfrey with 38 percent and [LeBron] James with 32 percent.”
With the research presented above, Americans should be aware that celebrities do influence voting and are major influencers in today’s age.