In collaboration with the UK Public Opinion Monitor (UK POM) run by the IDS, I have conducted a short survey (designed with Spencer Henson and Johanna Lindstrom) of public responses to celebrity advocacy. Just over 2,000 people took part in the survey.
The results provide one of the first large-scale surveys of how people respond to celebrity’s presence in the media, and in particular their work for charities (and especially development charities). A preliminary summary of the results has been written up by the IDS and is available here. For a link to the summary of the UK POM page where a summary of the results can also be found please click here.
There are two particularly important results from this survey which I want to highlight from the outset.
First, many people are put off by celebrity, but, paradoxically, they also find famous people who are not celebrities interesting (see page 5 of the report for the numbers). This produces the a rather curious, but important, question for people in charities building relationships with high profile figures: when do ‘celebrities’ become ‘famous’ (in the public eye), and thus more interesting to more people? For the analyst this fact presents considerable challenges for interpreting trends about engagement with celebrity: what does the word actually mean for different groups of people? How can we use it in our questions?
Second, most people claim that they do not pay more attention to campaigns fronted by celebrity, but they do think that such campaigns do work for other people (see page 8). Celebrity fronted campaigns may therefore be legitimated in the public mind by their perceived popularity, even if they are not, in fact, that popular.
Other interesting results are the way that people engage with what they consider to be celebrity news – which is generally for a short time and as a result of being lead to it while looking at other media content. However that will have to be set in the context of ongoing qualitative research which I am conducting with focus groups (and which I will report on later) which indicates that celebrity advocacy and celebrities’ work with charity is prominent in many people’s minds. They are often ready and willing to talk about it. The survey also suggests that significant minorities of people (20% of respondents) respond directly to the appeals of famous people (note the wording of the question) in some way.
This survey was one of two conducted with the UK Public Opinion Monitor. The first, conducted late last year, repeated a media use survey which had conducted by Nick Couldry, Sonia Livingstone and Tim Markham in 2005. They had conducted that survey as part of their ‘Public Connection‘ research project examining the relationships between media consumption and citizenship. It had interesting findings relevant for the study of celebrity advocacy which we wanted to update as part of this research. The IDS’ preliminary report from the 2010 media use survey is available here.
I will be analysing the responses to these surveys further over coming weeks and examining patterns in responses according to gender, social grouping and media consumption. If you have any further enquiries about these responses, or suggestions for that analysis, please let me know.