The Taylor Swift Phenomenon: Can The Pop Star’s Political Activism Decide The US Election? – Analysis


The political arena in the United States is, on the one hand, spectacular, and on the other, merciless, as candidates try to use absolutely all available means in order to win the support of voters and win the desired position. The most valuable position is certainly the presidential one.

In addition to presenting their own political agenda, candidates often use dirty campaigns to smear their opponents. One of the strategies is getting the support of public figures – popular celebrities. Due to their multi-million fan base, popular figures from the world of entertainment and show business, such as actors and musicians, can influence social and even political processes including elections.

In this context, for the past few years, and especially for months, the spotlight has been directed towards the currently most popular world pop star, Taylor Alison Swift. As bizarre as it sounds, due to the complexity of the electoral system in the USA, the singer’s political activism can to some extent influence the outcome of the US presidential elections in November this year.

The emergence of the phenomenon

Over the past 15 years, diligent musical work has made Swift a global music icon. Her take-off was more than spectaculare. From an unknown girl with musical talent from the small town of Wyomissing (Pennsylvania) to a promising young girl who sings country music from Nashville (Tennessee), where she moved at the age of 11 to develop her career, to a national star at the age of 19 when she released the country pop album “Fearless”. With that album, she became a national sensation, and the rest is history.

Swift has become one of the most popular female musicians and singer-songwriters in the world, with more than 200 million records sold by 2019. She has been named Global Artist of the Year by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry three times, while six of her albums have sold more than one million copies per week days. In addition to winning 14 Grammys, last year she was the most listened to singer on Spotify and Apple Music, which contributed to Time magazine declaring her the person of the year 2023. Her Eras tour 2023-24 became the first tour in history to gross more than a billion dollars, showing a level of popularity not seen since the days of Michael Jackson.

These successes wouldn’t have political significance if the singer didn’t have a huge cultural and social influence. Her influence on American society and consequently the world is great, so many observers detect the Taylor Swift phenomenon.

Initial political ambiguity

Despite her fame, for many, many years Swift remained quiet, or rather mute, about politics. When a Time reporter asked her about the US presidential election in 2012, Swift stated, “I try to be as educated and informed as possible. But I’m not talking about politics because it might affect other people. And I don’t think I know enough in life to tell people who they are going to vote for.” She left an ambiguous impression. On the one hand, in her own lyrics she showed sympathy for feminism, and on the other hand, her image left the impression of a traditional American (white) girl from the suburbs (“the girl next door”) who secretly supports Trump’s concept of MAGA (Make America Great Again), but she doesn’t want to say it publicly because of a possible fear of condemnation by the US liberal media.

At the same time, various right-wing groups, including radicals and white supremacists, claimed that Swift was actually theirs because she was white-skinned (Scottish, English, German, and Italian descent) and mostly hangs out with white people. Journalists criticized her for lack of political engagement, but Donald Trump praised her, and Republican lawmakers called her to visit Congress. She later revealed that she had been deliberately apolitical, avoiding commenting on politics because of the controversy surrounding the all-female country band Dixie Chicks, whose 2003 criticism of President George W. Bush over the invasion of Iraq backfired.

In the 2016 election, during the clash between Hillary Clinton and Trump, Swift didn’t comment anything, but appeared at the polling station in a sweater similar to Clinton’s. The following year in January, she supported the Women’s March on the day of Trump’s inauguration, but didn’t participate.

Support for the left-liberal agenda

In 2018, Swift broke her silence ahead of the US midterm elections in her home state of Tennessee. In a post on Instagram, where she had 112 million followers, she denounced Republican candidate Marsha Blackburn and supported Democrats Phil Bredesen and Jim Cooper. She received praise from the liberal public, and criticism from conservatives because they felt betrayed and told her to “stick to music”.

Trump said he now likes her music 25% less. In the end, the singer’s support was not enough for Bredesen to win, as Blackburn was elected senator by a double-digit margin. In 2020, in the Miss Americana documentary dedicated to her, Swift spoke out against Senator Blackburn and labeled her as “Trump in a wig” after she opposed the Violence Against Women Act and same-sex marriage.

“I can’t see another ad and see how (Marsha Blackburn, AN) hides these policies behind the words ‘Tennessee Christian values.’ Those are not Tennessee Christian values. I live in Tennessee. I am a Christian. That’s not what we stand for.” She said she “deeply regretted” not supporting Clinton in 2016. That’s why, during the 2020 election, Swift described Trump on Twitter as a “bad leader” during the Covid crisis and accused him of trying to “cheat blatantly” in order to win. In another interview, she said that Trump believes that the US is an “autocracy”. She promised Trump on Twitter that “We will outvote you.” At the same time, singer explicitly supported Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the elections and dedicated the song “Only the Young” to them.

Swift spoke out against gun violence after the 2022 Uvalde, Texas mass shooting and donated to gun control organizations after the 2018 Parkland, Florida shooting.

Taylor Swift’s political views can be briefly summarized as social-liberal. She criticizes white supremacy, racism, police brutality, and promotes feminism, gender equality, abortion and LGBT rights and advocates gun control. Such attitudes (sometimes more and sometimes less explicitly) run through her music and are not revolutionary. These are the classic (woke) attitudes of the average American liberal-leftist. Swift didn’t introduce any novelty and didn’t, for example, advocate some neglected issue. However, despite the fact that supported the mainstream narrative, she is still the subject of criticism from some leftist circles who consider her activism “performative”. So far, she has not spoken about geopolitical issues.

Support for Biden in 2024?

In recent weeks, there has been widespread speculation in the media about whether and when Swift will publicly support Biden in his candidacy as if it were a revolutionary move, even though it is something quite certain given her political affinities. At the same time, the Trump family started a “holy war” against Swift on social media and started spreading various conspiracy theories against the singer and her boyfriend, American football player Travis Kelce, a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Kelce is targeted by the American right because he participated in the promotion of the Pfizer vaccine and supported the Black Lives Matter movement. One of the conspiracy theories is that the Super Bowl was rigged so that the pro-Biden celebrity couple would support the struggling president. In the end, Kelce’s team won the championship, although according to media reports, it could be concluded that Swift took the title. But the Swift-Kelce couple did not publicly endorse Biden immediately after the Super Bowl.

The influence of celebrities on elections

Celebrities have always influenced political events in America. For example in the 1980 elections, Frank Sinatra endorsed Republican Ronald Reagan and raised $4 million for his campaign, even though he was a Democrat until then. Some academic research has found a link between celebrity endorsements and voter behavior.

One study found that a German influencer’s efforts to link the climate crisis to the European Union elections was associated with an increase in youth voter turnout. The survey, which examined Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of Barack Obama ahead of the 2008 primaries, found that Oprah’s endorsement brought an additional million votes to Obama.

Taylor Swift’s political influence

Taylor Swift’s influence on voters is real and recent events have shown that. According to, after she published a post in October 2018 urging her followers to get out and vote in the midterm elections, more than 169,000 voters registered to vote within two days of her post, while only 59,000 registered to vote in the previous 30 days. After Swift published an Instagram post in September 2023 about the importance of National Voter Registration Day, more than 35,000 people registered to vote on, a 23% increase in overall registrations and a 115% increase among 18-year-olds compared to the previous year.

The Swift fan base, named “Swifties”, is incredibly large. She currently has 283 million followers on Instagram. A March 2023 Morning Consult poll found that 53% of Americans are fans of her, and 16% of them are “avid fans”. The fan base is not evenly distributed across the political spectrum. 55% of Swift’s die-hard fans identify as Democrats, 23% as Republicans, and 23% as Independents.

A November 2023 NBC poll found that 40% of registered voters said they had a favorable opinion of Swift — more than any other person surveyed, including Trump, Biden and Harris. 53% of Democrats said they had a positive opinion of the singer and only 28% of Republicans. Compared to Democrats, Republicans are five times more likely to have a negative opinion about the pop star.

(In)ability to influence voters in three cases

The support of public figures to politicians is important in three main cases: 1) insufficient public information, 2) a large number of undecided voters, 3) the surprise factor. The support of public figures is important at times when the public knows little or not enough about the candidates in the elections. Everything is known about Biden and Trump, both of them have strongly separated voter bases, and it is not clear how Swift’s support could influence anyone to change their mind about who will vote for.

In the second case, the support of public figures is important when there are many undecided voters. The pool of undecided voters in a Trump-Biden matchup is very small because both candidates are polarizing figures loved by their bases and hated by their opponents. And in this case, Swift cannot attract many voters to Biden’s side. That’s a negligible number.

David James Jackson, a professor at Bowling Green State University who has studied the effect of celebrity endorsements on politicians, is skeptical of the idea that Swift could sway Republicans to vote for Biden.

“If a political stance is already popular among the group I’m researching, celebrity endorsement makes it more popular. If he’s unpopular, that makes him less unpopular, but it doesn’t really make him popular,” Jackson said. But he added: “Are American elections really more about persuasion? If it actually turns out to be a Biden-Trump rematch, how many people really haven’t formed an opinion about either of them?”

In the third case, the surprise factor Swift cannot achieve because she has already become recognizable as a supporter of the Democratic Party and its policies. Her support could be extremely important if she supported a Republican candidate in the elections. Such a thing would resonate, but it is not realistic that it will happen.

A real possibility of influencing the swing states

It is difficult to measure how much the activism of a celebrity affects the elections. Still, Taylor Swift’s effect on the election could be significant if she goes public and says, “It’s very important for you to get out and vote. Vote for Biden”.

Such a statement could influence some young voters, primarily girls and women, who lean towards the Democrats and Biden, but who don’t follow politics in detail, to register and vote. At first, this is a potentially small group considering the 334 million US population and approximately 250 million eligible voters. However, the American electoral system is unique. The winner is not necessarily the candidate with the largest number of total votes, but the candidate who wins the most electoral votes and wins the most US states. Differences in many so-called swing states are extremely small and political engagement of Swift can decide.

Swing states (New Hampshire, Minnesota, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Texas) are also called “battlefield” states and the outcome there largely decides the winner. A more detailed look at the election results four years ago says it all. In the 2020 presidential election, Biden won Pennsylvania by 80,555 votes, Wisconsin by 20,682 votes, Arizona by 10,457 votes, Georgia by 11,779 votes. If Trump had managed to win in Georgia, Arizona and Wisconsin, the result of the electoral votes would have been 269-269 and the House of Representatives would have decided about the winner. Trump would be the favorite to win the House of Representatives because of the rules of the 12th Amendment of the US Constitution. However, if Trump had also won Pennsylvania, the matter would have been resolved immediately without an additional vote in Congress. Given these facts, every vote in these states can be decisive.

Swift’s political support for Biden or another Democratic candidate could go down well with young voters who lean neither party, lean Democratic, or are poorly informed but loyal to Swift. In any case, it is undeniable that a pop star can influence more voters to register and vote. She can encourage mostly young female voters who are essentially apolitical and have never voted to go to the polling station and cast their vote for the democratic candidate.

Even if it’s just a few thousand or tens of thousands of Swifties who went to the polls, in swing states like Georgia, Wisconsin and Arizona, that could be the decisive factor and Biden could win that state. In the 2020 election, the youngest voters aged 18 to 29 voted for Biden with 61%, and Trump had only 37% of their votes. It is Swift who could primarily motivate such young voters who are already leaning towards the liberal option.

The credibility of the singer’s political beliefs?

It could be said that the liberal establishment (some would say the American deep state), is using Taylor Swift to attract white, conservative voters (primarily girls and women) in order to sell them their liberal agenda that is realistically at odds with traditional values. It is not the first such attempt.

Today, it is realistically difficult to imagine a movie or music star in the US who would unequivocally support Donald Trump in the elections. All of these are signs that the United States has been sliding towards the one-party state in recent years. The shift of mainstream media attention to Swift, instead of Biden, is striking. This is certainly not accidental, but clearly a strategy. The aim is to divert attention from an aging president who has entered his ninth decade of life and barely fulfills his duties (the question is to what extent the president makes decisions at all, and how much does his team) to a 34-year-old singer who still maintains the appearance of a girl even though she is an adult woman. In addition, the question is how politically credible is Swift? Does she honestly believe in the views she advocates and how much is she politically educated?

Considering the course of events, it can be concluded that she is an apolitical person who realistically, due to her dedication to music, didn’t have time to follow politics and acquire a political education, but she supports the establishment in order to distance herself from the far-right and create good marketing for herself. At the end of the day, Swift is one of the most important representatives of the US entertainment industry and she can’t be a superstar without the support of the structures of the US (deep) state. The question is how much celebrities should get involved in political issues, considering that despite all their artistic talent, they aren’t political authorities. In a political arena, especially in the USA, almost anything is allowed.

Matija Šerić

Matija Šerić is a geopolitical analyst and journalist from Croatia and writes on foreign policy, history, economy, society, etc.

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