Miller, Patrick; Flores, Andrew; Haider-Markel, Donald; Lewis, Daniel; Tadlock, Barry; Taylor, Jami K
Celebrities pervade American culture and often become relevant in politics, yet political science has largely left unstudied how celebrities affect mass political behavior. We focus on the 2015 story of Caitlyn Jenner revealing her transgender identity. Using an original nationally representative survey from that summer, we examine whether following the Jenner story and evaluations of its social significance affected attitudes toward transgender rights policies. Specifically, we examine how age and transphobia interacted with engagement with the Jenner story to shape attitudes toward transgender rights. We find, counterintuitively, that older respondents who were more transphobic were less likely to see her story as representing negative social trends if they followed it in the media. Further, more transphobic older respondents were more likely to support pro-transgender policies if they viewed Jenner’s story less negatively. We then discuss the implications of our findings for research on celebrity effects on politics and transgender rights.
Keywords: celebrities; Caitlyn