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Celebrity Endorsements are a standard feature of modern election campaigns. Mostly used to boost turnout, we test to what extent such endorsed campaigns are effective. Our experimental findings indicate that they are irrelevant at best.
Recent European Elections were plagued by a notoriously low turnout, throughout Europe, but especially in Germany. In 2004, only 43 per cent of eligible voters actually turned out to vote there – the lowest turnout ever reported in a nationwide German election. A strategy to boost turnout in the 2009 European election (employed – among others – by the European Parliament) was the endorsement of turnout by celebrities. Some scattered findings from the U.S. suggest that such endorsed GOTV-campaigns have the potential to mobilize voters, but the designs usually employed is far from optimal and hence, the issue of the effectiveness of such campaigns (and their underlying mechanisms) is far from settled. Making use of design combining an experimental element with a three-wave panel design (based on an online access panel), we put the effectiveness of endorsed GOTV-campaign to a rigorous test (employing a total of eight experimental conditions) – and we find, that they are irrelevant at best. In one case (based on a “polarizing” celebrity), we even find some detrimental effects on turnout. Hence, GOTV-campaigns endorsed by celebrities are by no means a perfect solution to boost turnout.