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
  • 7-31-14 Fire2.jpg Deputies, fire departments have busy weekend

    An attempt to bootleg electricity off a pole using jumper cables is believed to have caused a building fire that took out a former restaurant in Angus Friday morning, one of a series of calls to Navarro County Sheriff’s Office to the southern end of the county over the weekend.

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • 7-31-14 Rice ISD Alex Stough mug.jpg Rice students win UIL scholarships

    Three Rice High School students received UIL scholarships for competing in academic competitions at the state level, according to advisor Alan Lewis.

    July 30, 2014 3 Photos

  • 7-31-14 Collin Main signal.jpg Signal finally fixed

    It took a couple of months to get the parts, but the signal light at Main and Collin streets in downtown Corsicana is finally up and working again.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • A more vigorous US economy appears to be emerging

    WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy has rebounded with vigor from a grim start to 2014 and should show renewed strength into next year.

    July 30, 2014

  • Poll: Americans cool to border-crossing children

    SAN DIEGO — Americans are wary of granting refugee status to children crossing the U.S. border to flee strife-torn countries in Central America, and most in an Associated Press-GfK poll say the U.S. does not have a moral obligation to accept asylum seekers generally.

    July 30, 2014

  • 7-30-14 4-H robotics.jpg Science made simple

    Hats out of old newspaper and leftover wrapping paper, simple robots out of popsicle sticks, rubber bands and pencil erasers, a microcosm of the aquifer made of root beer and ice cream — with a dollop of chocolate syrup. These were among the fun science projects at Tuesday’s 4-H Discovery Days event at the Navarro County Youth Expo.

    July 29, 2014 3 Photos

  • County: No increase in city subsidies

    As budget talks continue at the Navarro County Courthouse, one consensus that’s been reached will impact budget planning at the Corsicana Government Center.

    July 29, 2014

  • 7-30-14 AthensFire.jpg Senate report finds fault with government inspection of chemical facilities

    WASHINGTON — The government has failed to inspect virtually all of the chemical facilities that it considers to be at a higher risk for a terror attack and has underestimated the threat to densely populated cities, congressional investigators say.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-30-14 Club-Rotary gov.jpg Club News

    News and announcements submitted by clubs and organizations throughout Navarro County.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local Beat 7/30/14

    A listing of meetings and events of interest from throughout Navarro County.

    July 29, 2014

AP Video
Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Obama Chides House GOP for Pursuing Lawsuit New Bill Aims to Curb Sexual Assault on Campus Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways
Twitter Updates