Poll: Voters care little for out-of-state money, celebrity endorsements

  • Rasmussen Reports finds that a large majority of voters have a negative or neutral perception of candidates who receive many out-of-state donations
  • Findings are consistent with prior Rasmussen polls about the value of political positions and opinions of celebrities as role models
  • Though a celebrity, President Trump’s influence appears to be a significant force motivating voters in 2018 midterms

New poll shows little regard for out-of-state influence

What will determine the outcome of the 2018 midterm elections? If voters act consistently with the findings of a recent Rasmussen poll, it won’t be outside money or endorsements from out-of-state celebrities and politicians.

The poll, conducted from October 9-10, found that 41 percent of likely U.S. voters look negatively on candidates who receive a large number of campaign contributions from outside their state. Another large portion, 45 percent, say it has no effect of their perception of a candidate. Only 10 percent considered a large number of out-of-state donations a positive factor.

When it comes to out-of-state celebrities and politicians, the Rasmussen poll found that their political influence carries little resonance with most voters. A full three-quarters of likely voters polled said that outside campaigning from these kinds of figures is not important to their vote, while only 12 percent said it was “very important.”

These results are supported tangentially by the findings of prior Rasmussen polls. A survey in September found that Americans believe in quality more than quantity, with 79 percent of likely voters saying that a candidate’s political positions carry more weight in determining the outcome of an election than their pocketbooks. Americans also don’t seem to put much stock in celebrities’ opinions, as a Rasmussen poll in January found that just 12 percent of adults believe Hollywood celebrities are good role models, while 66 percent said they are not good role models.

Indeed, despite the heightened passion and concern for national issues portrayed in the 24-hour news cycle, midterm voters in 2018 appear to be concerned first and foremost with their own states, districts, and cities, confirming the old adage that “all politics is local.”

The political ineffectiveness of celebrity support. . . until Trump?

David Jackson, a professor of political science at Bowling Green State University, reached a similar conclusion in a 2015 poll of Ohio general election voters about particular celebrity endorsements. When Jackson subtracted the percentage who responded they would be “less likely” to support a celebrity-endorsed candidate from the “more likely” percentage, he found that none of the politically-active celebrities showed a net positive effect.

On the national stage in 2016, for example, a slew of celebrity endorsements skewing decidedly in favor of Democratic president candidate Hillary Clinton was not enough to stave off her GOP challenger Donald J. Trump. Analyses in the Huffington Post, Daily Beast, and Vanity Fair postulated that Trump, being a celebrity himself, was an X-factor in the race. It wasn’t about celebrities pulling for him, he was the star. Voters either showed up for him or they didn’t, outside celebrity endorsements aside.

Put another way, “Trump made himself the subject and sold direct,” wrote David Stable in the Huffington Post. “Hillary sold herself through a well-connected social platform that made her once and more removed from her potential buyers.”

With President Trump supporting candidates as both a politician and a celebrity in 2018, rather than being a candidate on the ballot himself, it remains to be seen what kind of impact his support will (or won’t) have on any given candidate’s chances. A recent Harris Poll conducted with Harvard University’s Center for American Political Studies suggests that Trump’s influence will remain strong — for better and for worse. It found that 42 percent of likely voters view their ballots as a chance to express their opposition to Trump, while 37 percent say they are casting ballots to show support for Trump.

If so, that would make 2018 an outlier compared to past midterm elections in which the sitting president was unpopular. A report from The Hill on Wednesday cited similar polling from 2006 that found only 18 percent said their ballots were cast to support President George W. Bush, while 30 percent voted specifically to oppose him. Similarly, in 2010 when Republicans won back the House, 22 percent of voters said their ballots were meant to support President Barack Obama, while 30 percent said they voted to oppose him.

“To the extent that people are energized, partisans on both sides are more energized in this election,” Mark Penn, who conducted the poll, told The Hill. “They have Donald Trump on their minds, and a little bit of the economy.”

Image Credit: “Donald Trump” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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