What do Bill Gates, Beyoncé and Roseanne Barr have in common? To Americans, they represent a spectrum of divisiveness by gender and political party, according to a recent study by Ipsos on behalf of The Daily Beast. It found that a person’s gender and political affiliation weigh significantly on their opinions of celebrities.
As brands align with specific causes and demographics, these dimensions could make the difference between attracting and alienating key consumers. For example, Gates, the founder of Microsoft, has universal favorability overall across gender and political affiliation. Entertainer Beyoncé leans women and Democrats. Surprisingly, dictator Kim Jong-un is one of the most divisive figures on the survey. While he has low favorability overall, he is twice as likely to appeal to Republicans and three times more likely to men.
“Celebrities create a psychological shortcut for consumers to determine whether to trust a brand and its claims” says Trent Ross, co-director Ipsos Corporate Reputation Center. “In this era of political divisiveness, it’s more important than ever to understand how a celebrity’s equities align, or fail to align, with your brands’ reputation.” In addition, an August 2011 Ipsos poll showed that the celebrities who had the most influence to drive product purchases were also the most trusted.
Overall, tribalism based on political affiliation factors far more than gender differences in the calculus of celebrity favorability, according to the study. President Donald Trump, his daughter Ivanka and former President Barack Obama have huge partisan gulfs and small gender divides in their appeal. However, Ivanka is slightly more popular with men than women. There’s no surprise in that political figures are the most conflict-ridden in the survey.
“Partisanship rules, even with celebrities,” says Chris Jackson, an Ipsos vice president. Consider media mogul and actress Oprah Winfrey. She’s uniformly beloved by Democratic women and well-liked by Democratic men. But both Republican men and women are much cooler on her, says Jackson. Actress Roseanne Barr is the most party-polarized, non-political celebrity in the poll. Her now-cancelled show had more bipartisan appeal than she had.
Party before gender; even for stars
“The partisan split is much bigger than anything you see between men and women and it’s definitely true with Roseanne between Republicans and Democrats,” Jackson says. “At the end of day, party matters more than pretty much anything else.”
Interestingly, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow skews male nearly as much as entrepreneur Elon Musk. But she lands the far into the Democrat zone while Musk is squarely neutral among parties. Football player Colin Kaepernick, known for taking a knee during the national anthem at games, pulls his support more from Democrats than Maddow but has less of a gender skew.
The least divisive of the bunch are billionaire Bill Gates and actor Tom Hanks. They are the most universally beloved celebrities by 84% of Americans across genders and party lines. But even Hanks plots slightly more into Democrat territory. Rapper Kanye West skews male twice as much as Kaepernick. Yet they land equally opposite among Republicans and Democrats, respectively.