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Celebrities Play Role in Iowa Campaign

The road to the White House runs through Iowa, with celebrities turning out to support their favorite candidates. (whitehousemuseum.org)
The road to the White House runs through Iowa, with celebrities turning out to support their favorite candidates. (whitehousemuseum.org)
February 1, 2016

AMES, Iowa - We've seen pop singers, movie stars, athletes, and well-known politicians join the presidential candidates on stage the last few weeks, but how much impact do they have? Iowa State University political scientist David Andersen says those celebrity endorsements don't have much sway on voters who already have a favorite, but they are important for more casual observers.

"But for voters who really don't pay much attention," says Andersen. "Who aren't tied into politics too closely, seeing an endorsement from a celebrity or somebody that they know outside of the political world, that can kind of carry some cache with them."

Andersen says while those celebrity appearances won't affect many votes, in close races, they could make all the difference.

He says the celebrity appearance is a great technique to bring people to a campaign event who otherwise would not have paid attention or cared at all.

"But when they hear that a pop star they like to listen to is going to appear at a rally," he says. "They may go to the pop star and discover that, you know what, this rally sounds pretty interesting, this candidate is talking about things that I do care about, I just didn't realize."

Andersen says that experience can turn a bystander into a caucus-goer.

A number of political figures have come to the state in support of the candidates, ranging from mayors to members of Congress. What's in it for them?

"The calculus comes in that it would be nice if the person they're endorsing wins the presidency and then will give them the nice appointment or something," says Andersen. "But it also is a way for them to express to people that they have worked with before that they recognize that there's a candidate that really stands out in their opinion."

The caucuses begin in all 1,681 precincts in Iowa at 7 p.m. tonight.

Jeff Stein, Public News Service - IA