On Sunday, Oct. 7, Taylor Swift did something she’s never done before in her decade-plus career: She publicly announced her political beliefs.
Swift published a post on Instagram detailing who she would be supporting in the upcoming midterm elections along with her reasons why. Swift, who is registered to vote in Tennessee, said she would be supporting Phil Bredesen for the Senate and Rep. Jim Cooper for reelection, both Democratic candidates.
In her post, Swift revealed her reluctance to publicly share her political opinions in the past, but that recent events in her life and around the world pushed her to share her stance. She discussed not only who she would be supporting but also who she was against. Swift railed against Republican candidate Marsha Blackburn, saying her record in Congress “appalls and terrifies” her, citing Blackburn as having voted against equal pay for women and belief that gay people should not be allowed to marry. Swift touched upon the systemic racism that still plagues this country and wrapped up her post by encouraging her followers to register to vote, leaving a link for Vote.org.
The post quickly became a major news story, with multiple outlets reporting about Swift’s first-ever political post. Voter registration rates also surged in the following days. According to Vote.org, by Thursday, 364,000 new potential voters had registered, with 231,000 of them being under 30. There was an outpouring of support for the singer’s post, but there was also a barrage of backlash.
Conservatives in particular, were quick to turn on Swift. Many on the right believed that Swift was secretly a Republican. Posts on 4Chan and Reddit teemed with posts railing against the singer, with posts on a Pro-Donald board saying she “sold out to the left” and doubting she wrote the post herself.
Fox News was quick to point out that it was not Swift who influenced the high numbers of voting registrations, but that the last day for registration in several states was fast approaching. Conservative activist Charlie Kirk also suggested that Swift was not the only one responsible for writing the post during a segment on Fox & Friends. Kirk mentioned that he believes Swift had “bad information” about Blackburn and that he thinks the star should stay out of politics and keep her message “neutral,” something he had admired about her.
Even President Donald Trump had something to say about Swift’s post. He said he didn’t think Swift knew “anything about Blackburn” and that he liked her music “25 percent less now.” He also tweeted about registering to vote, promoting the GOP’s registration site, Vote.gop.
There is debate over whether celebrities should speak up about politics and social issues, or remain neutral, for the sake of their image. Many believe the latter, that a celebrity’s only job is to entertain. It is a popular trend among the right to condemn “liberal” Hollywood, dismissing what celebrities have to say because they are “out of touch” and “elitists.” However, many on the right, including President Trump, were quick to embrace Kanye West’s recent words of support for the GOP. However, they condemned Taylor Swift’s support of Democrats.
Celebrities have every right to speak up about social and political issues. They live in this country and are impacted by laws and policies that are made. Even if they will not be directly impacted by a certain law or policy, they can still be concerned about people who will be negatively impacted and should be able to publicly express their concern without being told their views are invalid because they’re famous and their only job is to entertain.
Now the real question is whether Swift’s fans will actually do their research and vote on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Taking the brief time needed to register online is markedly different from researching candidates, deciding who they want to support and then traveling and waiting in line to vote.
Should a celebrity’s Instagram post have encouraged so many young people to register to vote? While it wasn’t confirmed that Swift’s post was the direct cause of the spike, it is difficult to believe it was a coincidence, considering the timing. It is easy to believe that people, specifically young people, should be independent thinkers and not let celebrities influence their beliefs or decisions. Young people should have already been invested in registering and researching who they believe should be leading this country. However, many candidates do not try or know how to reach out to younger generations. Swift’s message had a powerful impact on her fans and was delivered in a medium that is well understood by many of them – an Instagram post. Maybe political candidates should take note of how to better reach younger audiences. According to an April 2018 survey by the Pew Research Center, millennials are expected to overtake baby boomers next year as the largest living adult generation in the United States. Their votes will be vital.
Swift’s post proved the power celebrities have over their fan bases. It was brave of her to speak up, knowing that her post could face backlash or ruin her neutral political image. It is important for citizens to speak up about the problems they see our country facing, celebrities included, especially when their words can have such a significant impact. Hopefully, Swift’s post proves to be beneficial on Election Day.