In the 2016 presidential race, do endorsements really matter? Short answer: less than they used to. 2016 is so far proving to be a strange year. Endorsements which used to be coveted are slow in coming and quickly forgotten, partly due to the scattered Republican field with no obvious winner, and partly due to the rise of anti-establishment sentiment which is looking to shake up the political status quo.
High-profile endorsements like Sarah Palin’s support of Donald Trump this week can make a difference to last minute undecided voters, thanks to all the free media attention it garnered. And A-list celebrity endorsements are guaranteed to ramp up crowds and provide a level of star studded credibility, such as Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of Barrack Obama in 2008. But some endorsements can also backfire; Clint Eastwood’s rambling speech at the 2012 Republican convention inspired more memes than votes.
The 2016 presidential race is highlighting the fact that endorsements do not carry the weight they once did. Hillary Clinton’s mountain of endorsements don’t seem to be making a difference against the increasingly popular Bernie Sanders and his brand of socialism. Some voters feel that being tied so closely to Washington actually hurts more than helps her campaign. And if Jeb Bush’s campaign is anything to go by, endorsements no longer guarantee success; he remains firmly in the single-digits in most polls.
However it’s still relatively early in this race; many politicians, unions, media outlets and celebrities have not yet thrown their support into the ring. They’re waiting to see who the likely winner will be so they don’t appear weak by picking a loser, or they’re hoping their endorsement will have more weight once the field has narrowed down. Endorsements continue to play an important role in presidential races because they signal a candidate’s level of support, urge donors to dig deep and can help to influence voter turnout. But knowing who Bon Jovi or Beyoncé endorses in 2016 probably won’t be a reliable indicator for who will become the Republican or Democratic presidential nominee.
Want more info about anti-establishment movements? Movie for your mood: V for Vendetta.