A model of post -modern political candidates: Responses to the candidacies of Clint Eastwood, Fred Grandy and Sonny Bono

Christine Marie Kelly, Purdue University


This study posited that the importance of images and the dependence on television in the political realm coupled with the prominence of celebrities, especially entertainment celebrities, in society have likely facilitated the rise of a new type of political candidate, the celebrity politician. Since 1964 actors, such as George Murphy (1964), Ronald Reagan (1968 and 1980), Clint Eastwood (1986), Fred Grandy (1986), Sonny Bono (1988) and Ben Jones (1988) have run successful campaigns for political office.^ This study examined three campaigns which involved actor-politicians--Clint Eastwood's 1986 campaign for mayor of Carmel, California; Fred Grandy's 1986 campaign for congressperson of Iowa's sixth district; and Sonny Bono's 1988 campaign for mayor of Palm Springs, California--to determine how those involved in campaigns with these actor-politicians responded to the actors' celebrity statuses and images during the campaigns. The case studies were based on interviews with the actor-politicians or their campaign managers, the opponents, a local reporter for each of the campaigns and local and national newspaper and magazine coverage of the campaigns.^ Some of the findings were that due to the celebrity status of these actor-politicians the media responded with increased coverage of the campaigns; the voters responded with increased participation in pre-election events and at the polls and the actor-politicians responded with large campaign expenditures. The actor-politicians also responded to their acting backgrounds by discussing it in terms of a small business success and presented themselves as symbols of the American Dream. Further, the voters responded positively to the actor-politicians because they appeared more believable than their opponents in their television appearances due to their expertise in the use of the medium. The study concluded that in times such as the early 1990's when the American public seems dissatisfied with the ability of their elected leaders to move and inspire them, they are responding positively to the charismatic style of celebrity-politicians and supporting their political agendas. ^




Major Professor: Ralph Webb, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Speech Communication|Political Science, General

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