Amajla Tricic, News Editor
Taylor Swift made headlines recently when she announced to her 112 million followers on Instagram that she would be voting for Marsha Blackburn, a Democratic candidate for Senate in the state of Tennessee.
Swift’s announcement came as a surprise to fans as the singer-songwriter has remained notoriously quiet on her political leanings throughout her career.
“I always have and always will cast my vote based on which candidate will protect and fight for the human rights I believe we all deserve in this country,” Swift said on Instagram. “I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender is WRONG.”
At the same time, all signs point to Swift’s post causing an overnight surge of 65,000 voter registrations after she urged fans to visit the political engagement website Vote.org.
Daniel Tagliarina, a professor of government at Utica College, discussed Swift’s statement and the importance of celebrities playing an active role in politics, especially through voting.
“I think it is a positive thing that Taylor Swift’s comments sparked more people to register to vote,” he said. “If we are going to claim to be a country with a government defined by ‘we the people,’ it is crucial that more people engage in the system, whatever the motivation for doing that might be.”
However, Tagliarina does not necessarily believe Swift was the only cause for the overnight uptick in voter registration because celebrity endorsements do not have a clear effect on voter behavior.
“Most studies on celebrity endorsements of candidates or positions indicate that voters aren’t swayed by these statements,” he said.
He went on to say that people who already like a celebrity might favor their positions, but that happens when a person is predisposed to like a position or candidate for other reasons.
“Celebrities might decrease the level of dislike for a position, but they haven’t been shown to any reasonable degree to make people shift from liking a candidate to disliking the candidate, or the other way around,” he said. “Thus, the concern over celebrity involvement in making political statements, or endorsing candidates, is probably a bit overblown.”
Bailey Bach, a senior, believes celebrities do have a huge impact, even when it comes to politics. She said influencers have a large amount of control over their followers and fans.
“If they jump, most will say ‘how high?’” Bach said. “I also believe celebrities can impact the party that their fans choose. Some people may jump on to that party as more of a trend to follow.”
Bach stated that some voters may not even know where they stand politically, so people with bigger platforms should explain why they believe in certain issues while also encouraging their followers to vote and be involved in democracy.
Belkisa Nuhanovic, a senior, said that celebrities have motivated her to care about political issues.
“I was not as liberal as I am now and that is all thanks to people I admire who have spoken out about issues I never really thought about,” she said. “I was honestly pretty ignorant but then these celebrities like Beyoncé used their platform to spread awareness and that made me curious and more involved.”
Nuhanovic explained that she has tried to hear both sides of the political spectrum, enjoying both conservative and liberal celebrities but ultimately assessing she leaned towards one side’s ideals more.
“Taylor Swift is a huge star, of course she is going to have an impact because of her following,” she said. “I think the reason there was such a spike was because her fans were hearing about her beliefs for the first time and in a way they felt closer to her and wanted to go out and vote, they felt motivated and united.”