Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Latest 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
Latest News
  • Cancer Center Relay 1 Relay for Life fundraiser hits home as O'Neills offer drawing for weekend at guesthouse in Kemah

    Ten bucks. What will it get you these days? Maybe lunch. An eighth of a tank of gas. A pound of bacon. What about a beautiful weekend trip near the Texas coast? While helping an incredible local cause? You bet.

    April 18, 2014 3 Photos

  • Friday morning fire damages home

    A home in the 1700 block of West Ninth Avenue in Corsicana was damaged by an early morning fire Friday.

    April 18, 2014

  • 4-20 West Jump 1.jpg West honors 15 killed in year-ago explosion

    Rev. Terry McElrath heard the deafening boom. The pastor spun around and saw a column of smoke billowing into the sky above his small Texas town. He immediately thought, "Somebody has died tonight."

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-18-14 Campbell Award.jpg Campbell named ‘Texas Aviator of the Year’

    It was quite an honor for Corsicana's “Dr. Dave.” The longtime Corsicana physician, and namesake of C. David Campbell Field at the Corsicana airport was named 2014 Texas Aviator of the Year by the Texas Department of Transportation.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-18-14 Hop 1.jpg Kids at Hop Downtown offer insights into holiday

    The Hop Downtown, sponsored by the Main Street Office and local businesses, was colorful, loud and joyous, with Easter Bunny photos, free eggs, cookies, a bounce house and face painting Thursday afternoon in downtown Corsicana.

    April 17, 2014 3 Photos

  • 4-18-14 Wesley UMC.jpg Two churches set to close

    Two local United Methodist churches are going through the early stages of closing their doors.
    Barry United Methodist Church and Wesley United Methodist Church in north Corsicana are both ending their ministries, according to their respective pastors.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-18-14 NavarroRegional.jpg Baker named hospital ‘Employee of Year’

    Navarro Regional Hospital has named Sandy Baker as 2013 Employee of the Year. This award is the highest honor bestowed on a hospital employee each year. Baker was chosen from among 327 fellow employees for the honor.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Church News for Friday, April 18, 2014

    News and announcements submitted by congregations throughout Navarro County.

    April 17, 2014

  • Mounted shoot event draws wide interest

    A fast-growing sport among western enthusiasts is taking center stage in Hubbard next weekend.
    The Hubbard Rodeo Association is hosting a Cowboy Mounted Shoot on Saturday, April 26 and Sunday, April 27

    April 17, 2014

  • Calicos to host dance clinic Saturday

    The Corsicana High School Calico Drill Team will host a special dance clinic for girls in 6th , 7th and 8th grade this Saturday, April 19 beginning at 9 a.m. in the Calico Dance Studio

    April 17, 2014

AP Video
Twitter Updates