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WASHINGTON, D.C. - Unmarried women make up a quarter of the electorate and a key voting bloc in the 2016 election. But based on her 2008 numbers, Hillary Clinton doesn’t have a sure hold on the single lady vote. Lucky for her, she was recently endorsed by a celebrity who wrote the book, er, song on it – Beyoncé. But can Queen Bey’s influence actually deliver the hard-to-reach voters for 2016?
Earlier this month, Beyoncé attended a $2,700-a-head fundraiser for Clinton, hosted at the home of the singer’s friend and Jay Z producer LA Reid. Bey didn’t make a big show of it; the news only came out after a photo showed her at the event. But Clinton’s campaign quickly jumped on the tacit support.
Still, the Clinton camp should be excited about the endorsement. In a pioneering study on the effects of celebrity endorsements, Northwestern University’s Craig Garthwaite found “statistically and politically significant” increases in voter turnout when Oprah Winfrey endorsed Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic primaries. Could Beyoncé’s support draw similar results?
According to Beyoncé scholar Kevin Allred, Queen B’s fan base actually could make a difference in the elections if they were called to action. Allred has taught “Politicizing Beyoncé” at Rutgers since 2010, a course that focuses on the messages Beyoncé’s music sends and how those may reflect larger political attitudes.
Allred noted that when he began teaching the class, the discussion largely focused on more theoretical readings of Beyoncé’s songs and music videos.
But lately Beyoncé hasn’t given as much room for interpretation. She and Jay Z donated loads of money to bail out Baltimore protesters. She performed in front of a giant, glowing “FEMINIST” sign. That isn’t exactly subtle.
Still, he doubts that Beyoncé would use her platform to stump for a candidate so directly.
“I think it would be possible to motivate her fan base in that way, but I don’t think she’d be comfortable,” Allred said. “I think she’d be more inclined to lead them to educate themselves about the candidates.”
But what if let Hillary Clinton open for her on her next tour? Would that kind of support really draw more voters to the polls? Allred said absolutely.
“Even if she just Instagrams the logo or something, then we’ll all know that’s what she supports,” he said.
“I think that makes a huge difference to fans, to the people out there who listen to her. I know all pop stars have die-hard fan bases, but hers is next level. They will do whatever for her to support her, so if she were to do something like that it would influence them as well.”
Allred also said that now Bey’s fans largely align with the type of people Clinton needs to cast votes — young people who typically don’t hit the polls.
“This is the kind of young voters that may or may not be political,” he said. “At one point most of her fans were under 18, but now it’s grown people that can vote.“
So will we see some Beyoncé tour dates in Iowa? Probably not.
But even little showings could make a real difference.