Voters who don’t watch or read about politics are much more likely to be swayed into supporting a political party which is endorsed by a celebrity, the study, by Dr Ekant Veer from the University of Bath’s School of Management, shows.
Researchers analysed 315 responses from people in or near Bath to questionnaires, some of whom said they were interested in politics and some who said they were not. Half of the 315 were shown a photograph of a famous British actress with the caption: “I vote Conservative, do you?” and half a photograph of an equally attractive non-celebrity with the same caption.
The researchers found that people who had said they were not interested in politics were more easily swayed by the celebrity endorsements. After seeing the celebrity endorsement, 67 per cent said they were more likely to vote for the Conservatives, compared with 48 per cent of people who just saw the non-celebrity.
The researchers got different results among those who had reported a higher interest in politics and political issues before they were shown the same two advertisements. Of these people 62 per cent said they were more likely to vote Conservative after seeing the non-celebrity endorsement, while only 47 per cent of people said they were more likely to vote Conservative after seeing the celebrity.
“Celebrity endorsement is much more common in the US than here, but this research shows it can be effective in getting people involved in the political process who don’t ordinarily think about politics a lot,” said Dr Veer.
“We found that among people who aren’t thinking about politics, a celebrity endorsement can persuade them to vote for a political party – but among those who do think about politics, celebrities are less effective.
“Rather than political parties each using celebrities to try and get votes, it may be more constructive for all parties to join together to fund a celebrity-led campaign urging people who don’t usually vote to go to polling booths regularly.
“The people who don’t vote tend to be those who don’t think about politics a lot, so they are precisely the people who would pay attention to celebrity messages, according to our research.
“With almost 40 per cent of eligible voters not voting during general elections, it’s important to encourage them to turn out.
“Even though we carried out this research on voting for the Conservatives, we think it applies equally to all parties.”
Dr Veer, of the Marketing Group in the School of Management, carried out the research during the summer. The celebrity is not named under the conditions of the research.-University of Bath