The Political Premium of Television Celebrity
AbstractThis paper studies the electoral consequences of television stardom through the career of Ronald Reagan. I utilize quasi-experimental variation in television reception to estimate the causal effect of celebrity exposure on political support. I find that Reagan's tenure as the host of a 1950s entertainment television program translated into support for his candidacy, in terms of votes and political donations, nearly two decades after the show's first airing. Placebo checks suggest that this impact is not driven by unobserved heterogeneity or omitted variable bias. The effect was especially pronounced in the 1976 Republican primary elections relative to the general presidential elections and partially dissipated in locations where Reagan was a known political entity. Using the American National Election Studies (ANES) surveys, I provide evidence on possible mechanisms. Consistent with rational updating, nonpolitical media increased voters' assessment of Reagan's character and leadership, personalizing political considerations in elections featuring him.
CitationXiong, Heyu. 2021. "The Political Premium of Television Celebrity." American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 13 (4): 1-33. DOI: 10.1257/app.20190147
- D72 Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
- L82 Entertainment; Media
- Z13 Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification