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
  • Learn about photos

    July 22, 2014

  • DEATH NOTICES These obituaries were received by 7 p.m. Tuesday: DANVILLE

    July 22, 2014

  • Police, Fire Reports

    July 22, 2014

  • Covington appreciates volunteer work

    City council members heard thanks Monday from street superintendent Rick Smith to Jared Brothers and the Stringtown Church of God youth group. The youth group has been helping the city street department for several summers with various odd jobs.

    July 22, 2014

  • Fire Reports Firefighters responded to the following calls: Friday, 11:18-11:42 a.m. — A broken sprinkler head at 75 Walz Creek.Friday, 12:23-12:38 p.m. — A natural gas leak at 13 S. Kansas St.Friday, 1:18-1:30 p.m. — A trash can on fire at 21 N. Vermilion S

    July 22, 2014

  • Police Reports Incidents reported to police include:DanvilleTuesday:Criminal trespassing in the 1600 block of Redden Court.Wednesday:Theft in the 1300 block of Lape.Thursday:Theft in the 600 block of South Bowman Avenue.Friday:Illegal consumption in the 100 block

    July 22, 2014

  • NWS-CN 07-22 Medal photo Afghan vet earns Medal of Honor WASHINGTON — Bleeding from both legs and his arm, Ryan Pitts kept firing at about 200 Taliban fighters in June 2008, even holding onto his grenades an extra moment to ensure the enemy couldn’t heave them back.On Monday, President Barack Obama draped

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • NWS-CN 07-22 Musical photo Musical takes serious tone For those who are inspired by classic tales such as “The Little Mermaid” and “My Love, My Love,” DLO Musical Theater’s summer youth musical is a must see.About 30 cast members ages 8 and up will perform “Once On this Island Jr.” at 7 p.m. Friday and

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • NWS-CN 07-22 Stanis photo Vermilion County Museum Society honors longtime quilter WESTVILLE – Victorena Stanis, 90, of Westville could tell a story behind every quilt she’s made over the years, starting in 1935. She knows where the fabric came from, and how she came up with designs.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fire destroys barn used for storing hay SIDELL — A fire Saturday night destroyed a hay barn at Crosswinds Equine Rescue, 8182 E 200 North Road, near Sidell, but owner Mike Cross is thankful that no person or horse was injured in the blaze.Four fire departments — Sidell, Indianola, Allerton

    July 22, 2014

E-edition
Spring 2014 Photos


Buy these photos and more via Smugmug

AP Video
Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment
NDN Video
Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl Swim Daily, Nina Agdal in the Cook Islands Guilty Dog Apologizes to Baby for Stealing Her Toy Prince George Turns 1 and is Already a Trendsetter Train Collides With Semi Truck Carrying Lighter Fluid Kanye West Tells-All on Wedding in "GQ" Interview Tony Dungy Weighs in on Michael Sam Scarlett Johansson Set To Marry In August New Star Wars Episode XII X-Wing Revealed Obama: Putin must push separatists to aid MH17 probe Michigan inmates no longer allowed to wear orange due to 'OITNB' Adam Levine Ties the Knot Sebastian The Ibis Walks Beautiful Bride Down The Aisle | ACC Must See Moment NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong Faces of Souls Lost in Malaysian Plane Crash 105-year-old woman throws first pitch Man Creates Spreadsheet of Wife's Reasons for Turning Down Sex 'Weird Al' Is Wowed by Album's Success
Must Read