For Celebrities, Speaking On Politics Probably Isn't Worth It
Morning Consult data shows that younger consumers are much more likely to be influenced by political and social opinions of celebrities than older ones.
But that’s a double-edged sword: 46% of Gen Z adults say they’ve unfollowed a celebrity on social media due to their political views, a share much higher than that of millennials (34%) and all other generations.
For celebrities, misspeaking can drive away younger fans who are critical to helping secure lucrative partnership deals.
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The Israel-Palestine conflict has reignited the age-old question as to whether celebrities should make statements on political and social issues. Stars including Justin Bieber and Kylie Jenner have already made posts about the conflict, only to delete them following online backlash. Other public figures have chosen to remain silent, which has invited criticism from industry peers.
But for stars, new Morning Consult/The Hollywood Reporter data shows a less obvious upside to not weighing in on sensitive situations: preserving popularity among Gen Z. Younger consumers are much more likely than older ones to be influenced by a celebrity’s opinions on political issues, and younger consumers are also more likely to retaliate against celebrities for voicing political views, which should dissuade stars from speaking out on issues beyond those they truly are well-versed on.
Younger consumers, liberals voice most support for celebrity opinion on current events
The political and social opinions of Hollywood stars are most likely to reach society’s younger and left-leaning consumers. More than 3 in 5 Gen Z adults (63%) and 57% of millennials agreed they are interested in these views from celebrities, much higher than the 38% for Gen Xers and 20% for baby boomers. Similarly, the share of liberals (57%) agreeing greatly eclipsed that of conservatives (32%).
These numbers align with the reality that young and liberal consumers more commonly report being influenced by the political and social opinions of celebrities.
Young People, Liberals Say Celebrity Views Effectively Influence Them
Celebrities have more sway over these types of consumers because they are generally more avid media consumers than their counterparts. Previous Morning Consult research has shown younger generations use video streaming and frequent cinemas more than older ones, while liberals favor those entertainment activities more than conservatives do. Younger demos’ media habits are a big driver of media companies’ chase for video streaming profitability; conservatives’ generally lower use of media show why companies like the Daily Wire and 1789 Capital see an opportunity in building out right-leaning entertainment operations.
Gen Zers are more likely to take action against celebrities whose opinions they disagree with
While younger consumers are particularly interested in hearing political opinions from celebrities, it may not justify the risk associated with sharing them. Gen Z adults are much more likely than all other generations to unfollow a celebrity on social media due political views, while millennials are more likely to do so than Gen Xers and baby boomers.
Gen Zers Unfollow Stars Due to Political Stances Most
Gen Zers are even more of an outlier when examining the groups of consumers who’ve not watched a show or film due to the political views of someone in the cast, as older generations reported having done so at rates on par with each other but clearly lower than that of the youngest cohort. Gen Z may feel more comfortable with ditching entertainment out of principle by virtue of not having had as much time to develop loyalty to certain celebrities or franchises as older consumers.
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Meanwhile, the share of liberals who’ve unfollowed a celebrity or avoided entertainment due to political beliefs isn’t that much higher than the comparable share of conservatives. This may at first seem surprising, given how much the former group values stars’ opinions. But it makes sense since it’s generally seen as riskier for top actors to broadcast themselves as outspoken conservatives rather than liberals.
Over One-Third of Gen Z Adults Have Ignored a Show or Film Due to Politics
That said, some people won’t react to opinions at all. Most adults (64%) said they haven’t unfollowed a celebrity on social media due to political views, while the same share reported not having ignored a show or film due to politics.
But assuming there is some fan reaction, it’s harder to inspire real change than some stars likely realize. Morning Consult data shows the share of Gen Z adults who have unfollowed a celebrity due to politics (46%) is higher than the share who have donated to or volunteered for a cause due to celebrity encouragement (30%). Similarly, the shares of adults who’ve unfollowed a celebrity or not watched a show or film due to political views (25% for both) are higher than the share that has contributed to a cause due to celebrities (16%).
This underscores how for many stars, the best possible outcome of sharing political opinions probably isn't impactful enough to risk the worst-case scenario of speaking and receiving backlash and canceled brand deals.
Kevin Tran is the senior media & entertainment analyst on the Industry Intelligence team, where he conducts research, authors analyst notes and advises leaders in the media & entertainment industry on how to apply insights to make better business decisions. Prior to Morning Consult, Kevin was a media analyst at Variety Intelligence Platform, Variety’s premium subscription service. Kevin graduated from the Haas School of Business undergraduate program at the University of California, Berkeley. @ktran223
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