Can this gossip hound mobilize the elusive younger female vote?
Will the Perez Hilton endorsement have more clout than the Kennedy’s in 2012?
Over 7 million people hit his website everyday. Perezhilton.com is the world’s most notorious gossip blog and website. Perez gives hourly updates on the latest insider news of the rich and famous. He uses his blog to vent, scrawl nasty, snarky comments on pictures of young Hollywood-type celebrities – Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Justin Timberlake – and paint suspicious-looking white dots around their pictures (and for whatever reason millions of people flock to the site daily to get the latest scoop).
But Perez has been surprisingly level-headed and passionate about something other than gossip this year. He has chosen to diversify his blog by frequently posting on the 2008 presidential election. Perez has blogged about politics at least three times a week since early November. Each post has garnished, on average, more commentary from site-surfers than his rants on the latest Britney Spears saga.
Why has the king of gossip suddenly decided to realign his internet clout to something of more….substance? It seems he has a personal interest vested in this election and believes that he has some influence on his readers. “For me this election is very important and I just wanted to encourage my readers, who are predominately young and predominately female, to go out and vote,” Perez noted in a candid interview.
“Celebrity” endorsements are nothing new. In fact, they have become more important each election cycle as the power of popular culture and mainstream media has expanded exponentially over the past few decades. It has been found that such celebrity endorsements are most influential among youth voters. According to a recent study 40 percent of 18-24s are influenced by celebrity endorsements. This compared to 59 percent of adults who strongly disagree that their voting preference will be influenced by celebrities. It is estimated that such endorsements account for an increase of about 2 percent in voter turnout (which is huge).
Now Perez Hilton isn’t exactly a “celebrity,” but these findings coupled with media trends among youth may have unexpected influence on a great legion of desirable American voters. The 2008 race has already been dubbed the “digital election.” Its been found that web is much more influential, than any other medium, to the under-30 voters. If we consider both the supposed power of celebrity endorsements and the internet as influential medium there might just be some depth to Mr. Perez Hilton and his political rants.
About a month ago Perez endorsed Senator Clinton, and he did it with one seemingly informal blog post:
“Not that our opinion matters (any more than yours). Nor do we expect that we will influence your vote in any way, but… Today is Super Tuesday and we feel it is our duty to publicly endorse Hillary Clinton… Hillary wasn’t our fist choice. We were initially swayed by the promise of change and the inspiring messages of Barack Obama. But that’s not enough! After careful consideration and much research, we have come to the informed decision that Hillary is the right candidate for us. We feel more confident with Hillary’s abilities to lead and her proven track record of experience. But, more so than that, HER plans for universal healthcare, education reform and emphasis on equality for all are more aligned with what we want in the next President. Whether you agree with us or not, please go out and vote today.”
– via perezhilton.com
Did Perez really expect that his endorsement would not influence any voters, or was he just being modest?
Two days after his endorsement, Senator Clinton overwhelmingly won the California primary. Hillary did get both of those votes. In fact young females came out in record numbers for the primary. Could this be a coincidence that directly corresponds with core audience of perezhilton.com?
Coincidence or not, his site attracts some very viable potential voters. His core readers, as I noted before, are predominately young and predominantly female. These are individuals who do not watch CNN, the local news, or even think about reading a political article in a newspaper. They are online several hours a day but never think of logging on to a candidates’ site. These readers are interested in what graces the pages of People Magazine, not the Economist. They haven’t been paying attention to politics their entire adult life and have not been confronted or directly spoken to about politics…until now.
Slapped in between posts about Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt, and Paula Abdul is a surprising rant on last nights Democratic debates, or the Iowa primaries. And what’s even more interesting is that these gossip followers are actually paying attention. The amount of dialogue that one Perez Hilton post on Hillary Clinton receives is quite remarkable. Within seconds of a post, hundreds of readers are already engaging in political conversation that any candidate would gladly pay good campaign money to receive.
His core audience actively engages in robust debate right there on a blog for all the world to see. These people are finally being talked to about politics in a way that they actually feel comfortable engaging in. They are learning about candidates, seeing video clips, and reading interview excerpts that the rest of the nation receives from a credible news source. The truth is this may seemingly be one of the only ways to reach them. It’s not intrusive. In fact they choose not to gloss over political posts, but engage in them.
I’m no political analyst, but I’m willing to put money on the fact that Perez Hilton, the least likely “columnist” of all, is making a huge section of non-voting, apathetic Americans think about the current political situation. They are now getting a customized daily dish of politics (served with a side of gossip and senseless humor, of course).
At the end of the day is not important who Perez is pulling for. More importantly is how he did it, who it influenced, and how it could possibly mobilize an entire legion of voters to the polls. The true test is whether or not these young, gossip-fiend potentials will actually show up to vote this November. If so, Perez might be a highly sought after endorsment in 2012… if blogs aren’t extinct by then.