Conservatives are still experiencing an intense afterglow after last week’s pseudo-endorsement by hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.
At the United for Ukraine Gala, in Toronto last Thursday, the ‘Great One’ praised Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his strong support for Ukraine.
"It’s really amazing, that our country the leadership we have right now. One of the greatest prime minister’s ever," Gretzky said.
"It’s really nice to see that our prime minister is not only protecting Canadians in Canada, but Canadians around the world. So congratulations for leading our country the way you are"
Unfortunately for Harper, Gretzky’s flattering words weren’t the beginning of a trend of Canadian icons getting behind the blue Tory machine.
On Monday, music legend Randy Bachman complained about the Tories using his ‘Taking Care of Business’ song during a campaign-style speech in Ottawa.
"I don’t think he’s taking care of business for the right people or the right reasons," Bachman told the Huffington Post.
There’s a segment of the population who roll their eyes when celebrities comment about politics and politicians. These people believe that popular entertainers and athletes should keep their mouths shut — that they shouldn’t use their status to influence public opinion. After all, ‘what do they know about politics?’
While that issue can be debated infinitely, a more interesting question is: do comments such as Gretzky’s — and Bachman’s for that matter —actually influence anyone.
While there hasn’t been much study on the topic in Canada, there has been in the United States.
A 2008 study by the University of Maryland suggests that celebrity endorsements do have an impact on the electorate.
"For to the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary, Barack Obama was endorsed by Oprah Winfrey, a celebrity with a proven track record of influencing her fans’ commercial decisions," notes the study by two economists.
"We find her endorsement had a positive effect on the votes Obama received, increased the overall voter participation rate, and increased the number of contributions received by Obama.
"Our results suggest that Winfrey’s endorsement was responsible for approximately 1,000,000 additional votes for Obama."
In another study, called the Obama Effect, South Dakota State University’s Rebecca Kuehl argues that the electorate — especially undecided voters — can be influenced by celebrities because they inherently seek to reduce their own uncertainty.
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Arguably, Gretzky is Canada’s most celebrated athlete — ever.
He may not have the same history of influencing people as Oprah had, but it’s hard to believe that he yields no influence.
If they haven’t done so already, Conservative staffers need to formalize Gretzky’s endorsement, use him in an ad — heck ask him to be a Conservative candidate.
In the meantime, let the Tory afterglow continue.
(Photo courtesy of The Canadian Press)
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