Endorsements only somewhat important in presidential elections


Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama on Sunday during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” made headlines nationwide.

Endorsements, however, may or may not really matter in the election.

Rebecca Hannagan, political science professor, believes they do in some way.

“Endorsements only matter in a certain context,” Hannagan said. “I think that endorsements

matter from the candidate’s standpoint because it is allying him with someone who is potentially influential. Obviously that can vary.”

What varies to Hannagan is who is making the endorsement. Celebrities like Matt Damon and

Ben Affleck may not mean as much.

“If, for example, Paris Hilton gives an endorsement, I would certainly imagine a lot less stock is placed in that not only from the candidate’s standpoint but from the public’s standpoint as well,” Hannagan said.

Senior English major Gordan Budimirovic agrees with Hannagan.

“It really depends who is making the endorsement. Colin Powell commands respect in the political arena, where Ben Affleck certainly doesn’t,” Burimirovic said. “I don’t think one person can sway my vote but they can certainly have an influence on me.”

But do celebrity endorsements have any affect on voters? Michael Clark, political science professor, believes they do to a small group.

“Politics in the U.S. are a complex business,” Clark said. “The selection process basically started two years ago. So, if you’re a voter trying to digest an enormous amount of information, for a small group of people, celebrity endorsements provide a nice cognitive shortcut especially if it is someone they admire.”

Hannagan and Clark have no problem with voters putting stock into endorsements, but Hannagan does believe there is some responsibility for voters following these endorsements closely.

“If people want to use the fact that someone they really like is endorsing a candidate as a reason to vote for that candidate, there is nothing wrong with that,” Hannagan said. “But I think it’s a good idea as a responsible citizen to know that your values line up with that person.”