There are basically two camps right now on ever-partisan social media: Those who think Meryl Streep's speech Sunday criticizing President-elect Donald Trump at the Golden Globes was great, and those who think this kind of thing is basically Why Donald Trump Won — i.e., elite Hollywood liberals going after the guy blue-collar voters chose to be their president.
Here's a representative tweet capturing the latter sentiment:
This Meryl Streep speech is why Trump won. And if people in Hollywood don't start recognizing why and how - you will help him get re-elected
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) January 9, 2017
Trump himself spoke to the New York Times shortly after the speech and dismissed Streep as one of the “liberal movie people" -- setting up an instant political contrast between celebrities and the rest of America.
It's impossible to know whether and how much Streep's speech matters any more than these sorts of awards show speeches generally do. But at this early juncture, I think we can say two things: (a) It's true that Americans writ large tend to dismiss the political proclamations of Hollywood celebrities, and (b) What Streep was talking about — Trump's mocking of a disabled reporter — was something even many Trump supporters think was wrong and would sympathize with Streep on.
As for the first point, there isn't a ton of great, recent data on how Americans view the politics of Hollywood and celebrities, but the polls we do have in recent years suggest people don't place much stock in what people like Streep think. To wit:
- A CBS News poll from 2014 asked whether people thought Hollywood had too much, too little or just the right amount of influence on American politics and social values. Fully 61 percent said it had too much, while 26 percent said it had the right amount and 9 percent said it had too little.
- A 2007 poll from Fox News and Opinion Dynamics asked people whether they thought the average Hollywood celebrity or the average Washington politician had better ideas for solving America's problems. A majority — 52 percent — picked the politician, while just 9 percent picked the Hollywood celebrity. (Twenty-eight percent said neither.) This was at a time, mind you, when Congress's approval rating had already dropped into the 20s.
- A 2003 Fox poll asked whether people were interested in celebrities' political opinions or would prefer that celebrities keep their political opinions to themselves. About two-thirds — 68 percent — wanted celebrities would keep it to themselves, while 24 percent said they cared what celebrities thought.
Those numbers, I would reinforce, are a bit dated. But there's no real reason to believe that these feelings have changed that much in the intervening years. And the overall picture is one in which people clearly don't have much regard for what folks like Streep think.
But — importantly — it's also worth considering the content of Streep's speech. Just because a messenger is flawed doesn't mean they can't deliver the right message. And Streep spoke passionately about Trump having made fun of a disabled reporter. Trump denies he did this, but the evidence is clear.
And it's not exactly a controversial viewpoint to believe that Trump was in the wrong on this one. In fact, as of August, it was the one thing he had done that bothered people most, according to a Bloomberg poll. Fully 62 percent said they were bothered “a lot” by it, and an additional 21 percent said they were bothered “a little.” Just 15 percent said it didn't bother them at all.
So 8 in 10 Americans were bothered by this particular episode in Trump's campaign — more so even than his targeting of Gold Star father Khizr Khan. In other words, if there was one thing about which Streep could have spoken that might have rallied a crowd of any sort, this was it.
At the same time, you have to look at the data above and think that a whole bunch of Americans are going to see this as just another example of Hollywood going after Republicans. And Trump is going to be more than happy to further that contrast.
Scott Clement contributed to this post.