U.S. soccer icon Megan Rapinoe endorsed Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren for President Friday.
In a Twitter post , Rapinoe wrote:
I’m proud to endorse Elizabeth Warren today, for being bold, for being real, for listening to ALL of us, and for being prepared to navigate the unique challenges we face today as a country.
The Senator appreciated the support. Tweeting back, Warren promised to “fight shoulder-to-shoulder” with Rapinoe for “equal pay” and “bold, structural” changes in the U.S.
Here’s a video of the two talking about Warren’s 2020 bid:
Warren clearly views the soccer star as an invaluable addition to her presidential campaign. But data suggests Rapinoe’s support is something Warren could live without.
2019 has been a remarkable year for Rapinoe. She has accomplished more this year than many athletes could hope to achieve in their lifetime. Rapinoe became a two-time World Cup champion, won the Ballon d’Or award and was crowned Sports Illustrated’s 2019 Sportsperson of the year.
But Rapinoe’s success has not come without controversy.
In the run-up to the 2019 World Cup, the winger told a reporter she wouldn’t visit the “fucking White House.”
Winning sports teams have visited the White House as far back as 1865 . And Rapinoe accepted the invitation after winning the World Cup in 2015 when Barack Obama was president.
But Rapinoe is an outspoken critic of the current administration and has called President Trump “misogynistic” and “racist.”
Rapinoe’s strong opposition to meeting the Commander-in-Chief sparked a fierce response from the president, who tweeted:
I am a big fan of the American Team, and Women’s Soccer, but Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job!
During the World Cup, Rapinoe also made headlines by refusing to sing and place her hand on her heart during the national anthem.
Whether you think Rapinoe is a patriotic hero or a traitorous grandstander, the star is undoubtedly polarizing. This is highlighted in Economist/YouGov poll from July, which showed American opinion divided on Rapinoe.
While 41% of Democrats said they had a favorable view of the winger, 21% of Independents and 29% of Republicans said they had an unfavorable view.
Unfortunately for Warren, support from a polarizing celeb isn’t great for national campaigns.
Most Americans don’t have millions of followers on Twitter, don’t fly in first class, and don’t live in mansions.
The majority of them get by living on a median income of $47,216 per year. And as it turns out, they don’t like being told by wealthy celebrities how they should vote (Rapinoe has an estimated net worth of $3 million ).
This sentiment is reflected in multiple surveys, including a 2018 American Barometer poll . It showed 60% opposed celebrities giving political endorsements because they “polarize public opinion and distract from the important issues of the day.”
And who can blame them? While Jimmy Kimmel jokes about President Trump not knowing the difference between his wife and his daughter, laid-off truck workers in Michigan worry about how they’re going to afford groceries next week.
A majority of Americans aren’t swayed by high profile endorsements either.
In a survey from Hill-HarrisX released in June , 65% of people said political endorsements from celebrities had “no bearing on their decision at the ballot box.”
This could help explain why Hillary Clinton managed to lose in 2016 despite endorsements from Amy Shumer, Katy Perry, Jon Bon Jovi, Ellen DeGeneres, Beyonce, Snoop Dogg, Ellen DeGeneres, Khloe Kardashian, Lebron James, and the list goes on.
But the issue for Warren is that Rapinoe isn’t just another celebrity – she is a polarizing one.
According to research published in the Journal for Media Psychology , celebrities involved in scandals can harm the perception of the politicians they endorse.
This finding shouldn’t worry Warren during the Democratic Primaries. As shown in the Economist/YouGov poll, a majority of Democrats have a favorable view of the soccer star.
But the finding could be damaging in a direct contest with Trump. Independent voters, who make up 38% of the electorate , are split on Rapinoe. And their vote could be crucial for Warren reclaiming key battleground states for the Democrats.
For Warren, Rapinoe’s endorsement is at best irrelevant or at worst counter-productive.