Audiences Listen, and Vote With Their Wallets, When Celebs Talk Politics

Morgan Freeman may want to hold his tongue the next time he thinks about calling the Tea Party ‘racist.’

Freeman, currently co-starring in ‘Dolphin Tale,’ made that accusation last month in the run up to his film’s release. And while the movie is performing well at the box office, it’s clear it could be doing even better, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The entertainment outlet just posted the results of a new study tracking how actors’ political comments affect the public’s willingness to buy their products.


In a far-ranging poll Penn Schoen Berland conducted for The Hollywood Reporter of 1,000 registered voters to gauge movie-going tendencies of Democrats vs. Republicans, it’s clear political allegiances have shifted entertainment viewing habits. Jon Penn, the firm’s president of media and entertainment research, says that before Freeman’s words, interest in ‘Dolphin Tale’ was considerably higher among conservatives and religious moviegoers than among liberals. After the remarks, 34 percent of the conservatives who were aware of them, and 37 percent of Tea Partiers, said they were less likely to see the film — but 42 percent of liberals said they were more likely. (Five days after Freeman’s remarks, 24 percent of all moviegoers were aware of them.) In fact, overall, 35 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Tea Partiers consider a celebrity’s political position before paying to see their films, compared with 20 percent of Democrats.

This won’t come as news to Big Hollywood readers. But the study might open up some eyes in Hollywood – and even in the trailers where actors are currently prepping their new lines

Among the poll’s findings:

  • Republicans are more likely to wait for home video Democrats are likelier to see movies on opening weekend, while GOP members prefer waiting it out. Republicans assume their values will be assaulted onscreen — so why pay the big bucks?

  • Republicans prefer family films; Democrats like edge From hundreds of Oscar winners and classics, Republicans were far more likely to name as favorites ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’; Democrats favored ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ and ‘The Silence of the Lambs.’ Among recent films, Republicans were likelier to choose ‘Soul Surfer’ and ‘Secretariat.’ Democrats? ‘The Social Network,’ ‘Bad Teacher’ and ‘Easy A.’

Of course, there’s an easy answer to the problem of actors getting too political in interviews. They can either avoid controversial topics in toto, or treat those who hold different views with respect, not contempt. Here’s betting conservative movie goers won’t sweat it if Freeman pulls the lever for President Obama in 2012. But if the actor unfairly calls them a racist for not doing the same it will stick in their collective craw for some time.

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