'Will & Grace' stars in pro-Clinton video: Do endorsements have an effect?

The cast of the NBC hit sitcom 'Will & Grace' teamed up again to create a video for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. 

Vote Honey/YouTube
'Will & Grace' cast members Eric McCormack (l.), Megan Mullally (second from l.), Sean Hayes (second from r.), and Debra Messing (r.) appear in a video about the 2016 presidential election.

The cast of the hit NBC sitcom “Will & Grace” have teamed up again to create a video supporting Hillary Clinton, the newest effort by celebrities to encourage voters to go with a certain candidate or simply cast a ballot.

The new video features the cast – Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Megan Mullally, and Sean Hayes – reprising their roles from the original show, which ran from 1998 to 2006. Will (Mr. McCormack) and Grace (Ms. Messing), both supporters of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, battle with Karen (Ms. Mullally), a supporter of Republican nominee Donald Trump, to convince Jack (Mr. Hayes), an undecided voter registered in Pennsylvania. 

The clip is the newest effort by celebrities to sway voters in one direction or another or simply encourage voters to turn out on Election Day. “The Avengers” director Joss Whedon recently made a video featuring “Avengers” stars including Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr. as well as other actors that told viewers to vote. 

Meanwhile, this past summer, “Sully” director Clint Eastwood said that he supported Mr. Trump, though he called the decision “a tough one.” 

These figures are familiar to people all over the country, but do endorsements from a favorite star make a difference to voters? 

TheWrap writer Itay Hod writes that “celebrity endorsements have no effect whatsoever when it comes to persuading voters one way or the other.” But it may affect donations, he adds.

“While star power may not inspire people to hit the polls, it certainly helps in emptying their pockets,” he writes. 

Meanwhile, David J. Jackson agreed in a column for The Cleveland Plain Dealer that the financial effect outweighs any ballot-box impact.

He conducted a study in which potential voters discussed whether a certain endorsement would affect their vote, and found that “only traditional endorsers, such as The Plain Dealer … The New York Times … and United Auto Workers … were net gainers for their hypothetical candidate. And with a margin of error of 3.5 percent, these net positive effects may be illusory.” 

He concluded, “Celebrities can be just as divisive as anyone else engaged in the political process today. Seekers of office should deploy celebrity support strategically. That means making sure the energy and attention celebrities bring are delivered to the right voters, which requires targeting celebrity endorsements through select traditional as well as social media platforms.”

Celebrity supporters, like other forms of publicity from Facebook posts to lawn signs, may have more of a cumulative impact than an individual one.

As political scientist Eric Kasper told Monitor reporter Gretel Kauffman in an e-mail, "There aren't any people who would be swayed to vote for a candidate based on that candidate's yard signs, but they serve as a signal of the candidate’s level of support. And if the other side has them, you could look weak if you don't have them, too."

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