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?


bctampa

Oprah for office?

Who would be the science adviser, Rhonda Byrne?

("The Secret")

politrix

This article is pure conjecture.

Caliphilosopher

"Please, the prospect of Oprah’s wishy-washy touchy-feely New Agey metaphysical drivel..."

That's odd - I've never heard her talk about Modality or Counterfactual theories of causation before...

SJ

There will be Iranian dictators jumping in the Oval office couches?

Silvanus

#5 Risma is absolutely correct. The influence of local leaders on activity is how the Dept of Ag got farmers to switch to hybrid corn back in the 30s. The difference is, Oprah's sphere of persuasion is much wider than traditional leaders (who are known in their local communities, and that's as far as their influence extends).

But Oprah as kingmaker? Not quite. There's 300+ million American citizens. 150 million of which can vote, and 100 million of which probably will vote.

wintermute

...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...

And, of course, alternatives to medicine.

ks

People like Oprah. People trust Oprah. People LISTEN to Oprah, and she's made her fortune exploiting the fact that most people want their life philosophy boiled down into sound bytes. We've all gotten used to digesting the information that she's already chewed up and spit into our gaping mouths again, baby bird style.

Sadly, that attitude has been taken to the extreme when it extends to a presidential candidate, but here we are. I would agree that we DO deserve what we get, but when the bulk of the electorate is comprised of people who vote on the say so of a celebrity (not just Oprah, either), it seems like it might be time to institute some sort of basic civics test before handing out those voter registration cards?

Nina

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

doug

And how many votes did Hillary get from Rush Limbaugh's operation chaos?

We deserve what we get.

Housewife Maureen

Funny. I find myself less likely to vote for Obama since Oprah is endorsing him. After all, much of what she endorses lacks substance.

Doug

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!...?

Eric

I think I read a book by Michael Moore suggesting that Oprah might run for President.

DJH

Please, the prospect of Oprah's wishy-washy touchy-feely New Agey metaphysical drivel being popular enough to keep her on national television -- and support an accompanying media empire -- for 20 years or so is bad enough. It's quite another to be told that she could very well be a "kingmaker" (or president-appointer).

Someone wake me up ... I'm living a nightmare ... !

frankenduf

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

Risma

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.

J

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

Joe

M Tood, the reason we know that Oprah's given over $300 million away because Business Week publishes a list of the 50 most philanthropic people in America, and Oprah's the only black and only show business performer to qualify. It's impossible to give that kind of money without it becoming known by the reporters at Business Week who sniff through all kinds of financial records. And if Oprah gives for publicity, why is the school in Africa and the cars Pontiac gave the only philanthropy anyone associates with her? Why doesn't she talk about the other hundreds of millions she's given, if every thing's for publicity?

And really when someone gives $300 million of their own money to charity, I really couldn't care less what their motivation is. The bottom line is that she has given a million times more than I have, despite being born and raised with far less opportunities than I was.

Matt

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...

jblog

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?

Joe

And btw, the only thing Oprah knows is how to climb out of poverty and adversity to become the richest & most philanthropic African American of all time and the most influential woman on the planet. In other words, she knows the secrets of success in life. That's why people consider her endorsement. And hardly anything that comes out of Oprah's mouth is written by anyone. If it were, she would have been shut down by the writers strike. Oprah's a talk show host; they thrive on their extemporaneous spontaneity, unlike actors and news readers who simply follow a script.