The concept of a celebrity politician isn’t as new as it feels, but the 2016 election of Donald Trump to the presidency seems to have ushered in a new era of famous people participating in politics. The latest noteworthy addition to the potential political arena is Oprah Winfrey, the famed daytime talk show host whose program, The Oprah Winfrey Show, ran on cable television for 25 years before going off the air in May of 2011.
After delivering a moving speech at the Golden Globes, calls for ‘Oprah 2020’ began resonating on social media. The next morning, CNN reported that Winfrey was “actively thinking” about running for the presidency.
A colleague in the 4media group London office wrote a piece entitled ‘#Oprah4President: Perceptions of Celebrity Leaders,’ which assesses a study performed by Atomik Research of 2,001 adults in the UK, who gave their opinions on celebrities in politics. Though the sample isn’t comprised of Americans, the insights are interesting enough to merit reporting.
When asked about which celebrities people would most like to see as president, Michelle Obama took the top spot with 28% of the votes, though Oprah followed in a close second, securing 23% of the sample. Tom Hanks and Morgan Freeman shared the third place spot with 19% of the votes, giving rise to a strong question: What are people looking for in a leader? We have answers. As our London friends pointed out:
“Despite having a candidate they’d be keen to take on the role, only 20% of respondents felt that celebrities should run as political leaders, with only 16% thinking they do a good job. So what is it that the public want from a leader?
67% felt that political leaders needed an interest in politics over anything else. This may explain why Michelle Obama took the top spot for president, since she’s had more than just a brush with the political system, having served as First Lady for 8 years. This may also indicate that maybe the magnitude of the role in question hasn’t been overlooked. After all, being President of the United States, Prime Minister of Great Britain or a leader in any country is not your everyday job.”
The statistic suggesting aspiring politicians ought to have an interest in politics would seem to make sense, though our natural psychology may predispose us to enjoying a spectacle more than a professional. Get this: Self-confidence (62%), being motivational (61%) and strong public speaking ability (60%) all charted very high as ‘important characteristics in a political leader.’
A 2015 study published in the journal Psychology suggested that the advent of new media, specifically the internet and social, has come to constitute a new version of the public sphere, perhaps the primary space for personalization of politics—a trend that is particularly favorable for someone who already has a huge personal brand, like Donald Trump or Oprah Winfrey. Where once we talked about ideas as institutional or party wide, now we tend to talk about individuals as representative of an entire party, a trend that could be tied to famous politicians almost intrinsically.
60% of those surveyed said they feel that celebrities don’t make good leaders, but it sure seems celebrities possess many of the skills people want in a public servant. Coincidence? I think not.
Though we here at 4media can’t answer the question of what celebrity may mean for the future of politics, we can answer questions that point to greater insights through dynamic survey creation.
Are you interested in generating insights for your brand? We’ve got your back.