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5 Myths About Oprah, Obama and You
In endorsing Obama, Winfrey has been deploying the same effusive, intimate and superlative style that has come to be her trademark in promoting everything from novels to her so-called Favorite Things, products she praises in an annual segment that usually airs around the holidays. After his speech at the Democratic National Convention, Oprah compared Obama's words to those of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., declaring, "I cried my eyelashes off," and "I think it's the most powerful thing I have ever experienced." Yet there seems to be mounting evidence that while she has definitely gotten people to vote, these people aren't necessarily the ones who watch her show.
According to Nielsen, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" audience consists of 8.6 million viewers daily, 75 percent of whom are women. Of these women, more than 50 percent are over 50, 44 percent earn less than $40,000 annually, and 25 percent have no more than a high school education. Last fall, it was noted that such women fit the profile of Hillary Clinton's supporters more than Obama's. Now, those women seem to fit the Sarah Palin profile. A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that before the Democratic convention, Obama had an 8-point lead among white women voters, but after the Republican National Convention, McCain was up by 12 points among these voters.
5. Oprah adds to her own success by helping Barack Obama succeed .
Back in 1999, a survey of the most respected 20th-century women put Winfrey second only to Mother Teresa, who, it has been remarked, did not have her own talk show. Fourteen months ago, a USA Today-Gallup poll reported that 74 percent of Americans viewed Winfrey favorably. Last fall, after her Obama endorsement, that same poll found that her favorable rating had dropped to 66 percent. Correlation is not causation, of course, and it's unclear whether this decline is connected to her politics, but it does seem as though she has taken a risk. A drop like that causes political science professor Costas Panagopoulos of Fordham University to conclude that celebrity endorsements can end up costing the endorser more than they benefit the candidate.
Winfrey has undoubtedly motivated many voters to cast their lot with her candidate, filling arenas as she goes. But it's less certain that these voters are her original fans. She seems to have gotten her audience members fired up and ready to go, but not, perhaps, ready to go vote for Obama.
Kathleen Rooney is the author of "Reading with Oprah: The Book Club That Changed America."