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School of Diplomacy and International Relations

Professor Brandon Valeriano Discusses Influencer Icon Taylor Swift With Pop Culture Press

Brandon ValerianoProfessor Brandon Valeriano, Ph.D., assistant professor, School of Diplomacy and International Relations, was interviewed by the internationally acclaimed Dazed digital site to discuss whether pop culture icon Taylor Swift could sway the 2024 presidential election. An expert on popular culture and international soft power, Valeriano has researched sports, video games, K-Pop, and most recently Taylor Swift. In the Dazed interview Valeriano was asked if Swift could sway the 2024 presidential election, especially given the significant impact of the youth vote. Valeriano explained that the Swift demographic includes youth and undecided voters. Dazed is marketed as "the most influential independent fashion and culture title in the world." The interview is available here

Valeriano reflected that describing Swift’s ability to sway the election was a dramatic way of framing the issue but unlikely.

It’s almost as if someone is setting up a situation in which they can blame an individual for a collective failure. However, if this is a close election - anything becomes possible, he added, we have evidence for some clear influence so far. When Swift promoted voter registration on Instagram, 35,000 new voters signed up. This is a dramatic outcome that well-funded organizations can only dream of. The other is her impact on marketing; recently it was measured that she boosted the brand value of the Chiefs by $335 million. This will likely increase during the run-up to the Super Bowl. While these claims are rather dramatic, no one else in pop culture globally can hope to achieve the same impact. 

Valeriano compared Swift’s influence to that of earlier iconic personalities:

Of course, none of this is new. Celebrities have always influenced politics from the whole entire political career. Ronald Reagan to the influence of certain people like Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand and Oprah Winfrey. In fact, Oprah Winfrey is a very special case – a paper by Northwestern and University of Maryland scholars found that Oprah created one million additional voters to Obama in 2008. While Obama won by nearly 10 million votes and Biden won by 7 million votes, what matters is where these people are voting. A swing in an important district can win the election. 

I was kind of reminded of an old Disney movie The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band which is a 1968 musical about a family coming up with a campaign song for the 1888 election. Not exactly your typical Disney fare. But the point being is that celebrity politics and the influence of pop culture was much different in the past when we didn’t have the ubiquity of pop culture like we do now that is brought on by the internet. Simple things like songs and political rallies really mattered. Harkening back to the bygone days, ‘The Music Man’, the local town band that was critically important for political activities. This goes to the newer reality where the local town band and the local singer can have a global geopolitical reach. This is what is new, the globalization of popular culture and Taylor is the exemplar of this. 

In addition to his love for the topic of popular culture and soft power, Valeriano’s research includes emergent technology, cyber security and international conflict. He has given testimony to the U.S. Senate and the United Kingdom and Canadian Parliaments. He is the co-author with Benjamin Jensen and Ryan C. Maness, of Cyber Strategy: The Evolving Character of Cyber Power and Coercion, published by Oxford University Press. He serves as area editor for International Relations and Strategy for the Journal of Cybersecurity and a General Editor for the Oxford University Press Book Series on Disruptive Technology and International Security. 

View the coverage: Ask an expert: Could Taylor Swift really impact the 2024 election?

Categories: Nation and World