So Much for One Person, One Vote

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We live in a democratic society where each adult (except for some felons) gets one vote for president.

Except for Oprah. She gets one million votes.

A new study by Maryland economists Craig Garthwaite and Tim Moore argues that Oprah doesn’t just sell books, she influences votes too.

Using geographic variation in subscriptions to her magazine and the bump in book sales associated with her book club, Garthwaite and Moore estimate that Oprah’s endorsement of Barack Obama was worth one million votes to him in the primary election.

According to their numbers, Hillary Clinton would have gotten more votes than Obama if Oprah hadn’t endorsed him. I suspect that Oprah’s endorsement was especially influential because Hillary was a woman, but Oprah didn’t endorse her.

Perhaps Oprah should think of taking a more direct approach next time around: Winfrey for president in 2012?

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  1. Matt says:

    Normally I would be perturbed that one popular culture figure could have so much influence. For some reason, though, Oprah wielding such influence does not irk me. Perhaps it is because she has shown herself to be thoughtful and deliberate in her decision-making both as a businessperson and in recommending products, books, and now, politicians, to her devotees.

    Now if it were Scarlett Johansson’s email…

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  2. jblog says:

    And yet, her television ratings are in the tank this summer.

    Could it be that by straying into partisan politics, Oprah has alienated some of her fans?

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  3. JP says:

    Is this really news? Oprah has long influenced what book we buy, what couches we jump on and how often and how many times we scream “You get a car!”

    Considering how far reaching her empire is, I’m surprised she isn’t worth more.

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  4. frankenduf says:

    They just announced today that Oprah is giving a brand new car to everyone who votes for Obama in the general election

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  5. Risma says:

    I’m sure the title of this article was just written to antagonize, but it’s hogwash. Leaders in the community have always influenced masses of people, that’s what makes them leaders. The voters themselves still did the choosing and the voting. So what if they chose to trust Oprah’s recommendation? It doesn’t make those million votes somehow suspect.

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  6. J says:

    Winfrey for President in 2012 – God help this country if such a thing happens.

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  7. Doug says:

    Yeah, who’d want a smart, disciplined and responsible business person as president?

    Scratch that, what smart, disciplined, responsible business person would want to be president?

    Obama/Oprah ’08!…?

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  8. Nina says:

    #6 (J): and why would that be so bad?? It sure beats having Bush as president…

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