How Data Affects Politics: Determining Celebrity Endorsements

As the nation approaches the 2016 Presidential elections, the race for the most relevant celebrity endorsements has begun. While the Democratic Party has historically been savvier in gaining the backing of popular artists, musicians and actors, Republicans have struggled to connect with the country’s youth in the same way.

So which celebrity endorsements should the GOP’s campaign managers use to ensure that Republican primary voters will cast their ballots? Perhaps the answer lies in the voters themselves. What can online audience data tell us about which celebrities and musicians held the greatest sway for Republican Primary voters? And most importantly, how can advertisers use this data to connect with Republican voters?

We compared user behaviors of 265,400 Republicans who are highly likely to vote in the upcoming primaries compared to the average Internet user. According to the data, here are the four celebrity endorsements Republican candidates should consider:

·       Mindy Kaling - GOP voters are 13.5 times as likely to research her than the average internet population. That’s right, the data finds first-generation American, Indian comedian Mindy Kaling at the top of the list. While Republican voters’ attraction to Mindy is not immediately obvious, a closer look sheds light on her appeal. While not explicitly revealing her own leanings, the Dartmouth-educated writer has described both of her own parents as conservative Republicans. Additionally, Mindy revealed her desire to own a handgun, which may have been the inspiration behind her character owning a gun on her sitcom “The Mindy Project.”

·       Robert Downey Jr. – GOP voters are 9 times as likely to research him than the average Internet population. Considering that superhero ideals of bravery and valor hold an integral role in the Republican Party’s rhetoric and value system, it’s no wonder that the actor in the titular role of one of the highest grossing superhero franchises of the past decade would be a Republican favorite. Downey may be open to lending a hand to the right candidate. He has attended events for both parties: a fundraiser for President Obama at George Clooney’s home and a Minneapolis Republican Convention in 2008.

·       Kate Upton – GOP voters are 8.6 times as likely to research her than the average internet population. When you think of the Republican Party, your first association might not to be a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. However, Kate Upton may even be up for the challenge of political life – her uncle, Republican Congressman Fred Upton, proves that politics is in her blood. In fact, Kate chose to spend her 21st birthday with Uncle Fred at a Republican Party Convention where attendees were eager to post Instagram images with the young model.

·       Sandra Bullock – GOP voters are 8.3 times as likely to research her than the average internet population. Bullock has been America’s sweetheart for decades, but one of her more recent films cemented her as a Republican favorite. Perhaps her role in “The Blind Side” as Leigh Anne Tuohy – a Southern Christian woman who puts faith, family and football first in her life – was more than enough to inspire admiration from Republican Primary voters. Country superstar Tim McGraw played her husband in the movie, and even former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has recognized “The Blind Side” as one of her favorite films.

In addition to having a popular spokesperson, music can give candidates an advantage on the campaign trail, allowing them to capture the hearts and minds of the electorate. While a love of music is universal, genre preferences divide along party lines. Among primary voters, Republicans are more likely to enjoy Country (11.6 times) and Rock (6.3 times) while Democrats prefer R&B (9.9 times), Blues (8.7 times) and Hip Hop (7.1 times). The songs politicians choose to play as they take the stage may make a subconscious impact, so it’s important to choose wisely.

·       U2 (6.3 times) – Although U2 has historically aligned more strongly with liberal Democrats, they have also gathered a strong Republican following. The older male Boomers that make up a large portion of the Republican Party enjoy U2’s uplifting rock. Bono, lead singer of U2, may even agree to give a concert in support of a Republican primary candidate. During George W.’s years in office, Bono was known to spend time in Washington discussing humanitarian initiatives with him.

·       Katy Perry(6.0 times): Interest in Katy Perry is high for both parties, with Democrats demonstrating 5.0 times interest and Republicans weighing in at 6.0 times interest. However, Republicans may need to act fast, as Perry’s pop anthem “Roar” appears on Hillary Clinton’s Spotify campaign playlist. Though Perry has publicly offered to write a campaign song for Clinton, Hillary has yet to take her up on the offer.

·       Taylor Swift (5.9 times): While there may be “Bad Blood” between Taylor Swift and Katy Perry, they have both found a captive audience in the Republican Party. Young Republicans have taken to Twitter, welcoming Taylor to Washington and discussing why they believe she is a secret Republican. Best arguments to their point: Taylor performed at the 2008 Republican National Convention and went on to name one of her bestselling albums “Red.”

Politicians, take note! Online audience data gives advertisers the power to understand and connect with voters – even on a pop culture level, and is ultimately a critical component to any political campaign strategy.

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