Endorsing Obama Is Costing Oprah In The Favorable Ratings

Los Angeles Times reporter and blogger Andrew Malcolm drew an interview on MSNBC Tuesday for his report at Top of the Ticket that Oprah Winfrey is suffering in popularity due to her endorsement and campaigning for Barack Obama. (MSNBC also blamed a popular YouTube video called The Church of Oprah Exposed). Malcolm and Don Frederick reported that while Oprah certainly boosted Obama’s star power, it came with a price:

But little attention has been paid to the effect of Obama on Oprah. Now along comes Costas Panagopoulos, an assistant professor of political science at New York's Fordham University, to ask and answer just that question.

Writing at Politico.com, he suggested Winfrey has paid a price for getting into the dirty business of politics. By August 2007, a CBS poll found her favorable rating had dropped, from 74% to 61%. Recently, her rating dipped a bit more, to 55%.

And Panagopoulos pointed to an AOL survey of 1.35 million Americans that found 46% said the daytime TV host who "made their day" was Ellen DeGeneres, while only 19% chose Winfrey. Panagopoulos drew the conclusion that celebrity endorsers run the risk of costing themselves more than they benefit the endorsee.

Actually, the lower 55 percent rating came from a Fox News survey, wrote the Fordham professor (who, ahem, also worked in the office of Hillary Clinton):

But by the time Fox News/Opinion Dynamics asked Americans about their attitudes toward Oprah in a survey conducted about 10 days later, Dec. 18-19, Oprah’s favorability ratings had dropped even further — to 55 percent — the lowest level of favorability ever registered for Oprah in opinion surveys. Oprah’s negatives also spiked, with one in three respondents (33 percent) reporting unfavorable impressions of her.

MSNBC not only interviewed Malcolm during the 11 am hour Tuesday, but in the next hour interviewed Nancy Giles, best known as a liberal commentator for the CBS News show Sunday Morning (but not identified as such on MSNBC). Giles seemed frustrated that Oprah would suffer for boosting Obama, but Ellen DeGeneres has not seemed to suffer for boosting Hillary Clinton on her program.

Anchor Tamron Hall tried to suggest that Ellen can show Oprah how to recover after coming out as a lesbian led to her ABC sitcom being canceled, but she came back with her talk show. That led to this exchange:

NANCY GILES: We want Oprah to know, ‘We want it to come back!’ Right?

TAMRON HALL: Only if she pays me. I don’t have an opinion on this. I don’t care.

Giles laughed, suggesting that maybe the two African-American women are friends, or that she was simply shocked by the Oprah-indifferent answer. Hall seemed to be suggesting that she needs to shelve her opinions if she's going to host a news show -- which no doubt will lead to leftists decrying her as a corporate sellout.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis