The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

October 8, 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
Local News
  • Trojans get past Ramblers

    STAFF REPORT sports@dancomnews.com ATTICA, Ind. -- Regan Foster hit a home run and drove in three runs as the Covington softball team defeated Attica 8-5 on Tuesday in Wabash River Conference action. Andi Taylor had three hi

    April 16, 2014

  • Mayor looks for fire committee members by Labor Day DANVILLE - Now with budget discussions done for the time being, Mayor Scott Eisenhauer is looking for people to serve on a committee to analyze the fire division and its future. He'd like recommendations from the committee to the city council by Labo

    April 16, 2014

  • Salary talks go on at meeting DANVILLE -- Few members of the Vermilion County Board came out strongly for or against the issue of salaries for county offices and positions. Members of the Vermilion County Board discussed the issue of salary increases for offices up for election i

    April 16, 2014

  • Hoopeston group discusses economic development

    Economic growth was on the agenda Monday night in Hoopeston as about 50 people gathered at St. Anthony's Parish Hall to discuss an economic development strategy for the city.

    April 15, 2014

  • Covington Middle School students win at Purdue Science Fair

    Eighth-grader A.J. Kline and seventh-graders Shiley Claypool and Diana Shelby told school board members about their science fair projects Monday night. They competed at the Lafayette Regional Science and Engineering Fair at Purdue University last month.

    April 15, 2014

  • Oakwood sells its water and sewer systems

    Village trustees are faced with a responsibility many small towns would love to have — what to do with $2 million in cash.

    April 15, 2014

  • Banquet to honor Shockey

    April 15, 2014

  • Job fair Wednesday at DACC

    April 15, 2014

  • SpaceX delays station delivery launch CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- A space station cargo ship will remain Earthbound for a while longer. With less than two hours remaining, the Space X company called off Monday's planned launch from Cape Canaveral. A new launch date was not set; the next atte

    April 15, 2014

  • Police, Fire Reports

    April 15, 2014

E-edition
AP Video
Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge US Supports Ukraine's Efforts to Calm Tensions Suspect in Kansas Shootings Faces Murder Charges Ukraine: Military Recaptures Eastern Airport Raw: Storm Topples RVs Near Miss. Gulf Coast NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse Pistorius Cries During Final Cross-Examination The Boston Marathon Bombing: One Year Later Michael Phelps Set to Come Out of Retirement First Women Move to Army Platoon Artillery Jobs Sex Offenders Charged in Serial Killings Police: Woman Stored Dead Babies in Garage OC Serial Murder Suspects May Have More Victims Family: 2 Shot in Head at Kan. Jewish Center Raw: Horse Jumping Inspires 'Bunny Hop' After Attack, Officials Kill 5 Bears in Florida Popular Science Honors Year's Top Inventions ND Oil Boom Attracting Drug Traffickers
NCAA basketball
NDN Video
8-year-old Boy Gets His Wish: Fly Like Iron Man Toddler climbs into vending machine Much-Anticipated 'Gone Girl' Trailer Finally Debuts! (VIDEO) Dog and Toddler Wear Matching Outfits in Adorable Photo Series VP Biden: "World witnesses ordinary citizens doing extraordinary things" It's Official! Michael Strahan Joins "GMA" Blood Moon Time-lapse Actress Lake Bell Goes Topless The Five Weirdest Local Taxes in America Applicants Vying for 'World's Toughest Job' Get Heartwarming Surprise Awkward: Crist catches Lt. Gov. insulting him on camera NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse US Airways Tweets Graphic Photo of Nude Woman Behind the scenes of the Marathon anniversary photo shoot American Airlines Responds After Girl Tweets Alleged Terror Threat 'Joke' Charlie White's "Dancing" Mistake Olympic Great & Baltimore Native Michael Phelps Ends Retirement; Eyes Rio 2014 NFL Draft: Potential Booms And Busts William and Kate Squash Baby No. 2 Rumors With a Wine-Tasting Trip Who Showed Up at Coachella?
Must Read