Celebrities can coax youth to vote, study shows

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Initiatives by celebrities like Beyonce Knowles, Christina Aguilera and Sean “P.Diddy” Combs to persuade young people to vote have been successful, research showed on Tuesday.

“Celebrities have the power to motivate civic engagement regardless of their own grasp of the issues at hand,” according to a study by Washington State University published in the Mass Communication and Society journal.

The study, based on a survey of 305 students at the university, contrasted with a number of other polls which indicated celebrity endorsements of presidential candidates were unlikely to sway votes,

It said: “Celebrity endorsed campaigns successfully lowered complacency and helped young people believe in their own impact on the political system. Young people got involved at higher levels and became increasingly aware of societal issues.”

The study, led by Erica Austin, researched the influence of “get out the vote” campaigns in 2004 involving Knowles, Aguilera, Combs and other celebrities. It quoted a Pace University poll in 2004 which showed 44 percent of newly registered voters were ages 18 to 25.

The study found that “the cause of this dramatic increase in voter participation of young people in 2004 can largely be attributed to celebrity get-out-the-vote promotions.”

About 44 million people aged 18 to 29 are eligible to vote in the November 4 presidential election. If young voter turnout exceeded 50 percent, it would be only the third time since the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1972.

Turnout among young voters peaked at 55 percent in 1972 and dropped to 40 percent in 1996 and 2000, but it rebounded to 49 percent in 2004.

Celebrities including Jessica Alba, Leonardo DiCaprio, Halle Berry, Jennifer Aniston, Ashton Kutcher, Eva Longoria and Dustin Hoffman have been involved in campaigns this year to encourage people to vote.

Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and David Storey