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A surprise: Oprah pays a real cost for supporting Barack Obama

(UPDATE: This Ticket item has aroused so much interest, traffic and hundreds of comments that a new one has been published this morning. After you've read this item and are ready to go to the new one, just click here to read the reactions of hundreds of Oprah fans and former fans. Thanks for reading.)

Most of the attention on the O2 effect -- Obama and Oprah -- has been focused on how much the daytime TV cult leader helped her home state senator by endorsing him and appearing at all those rallies in Iowa and South Carolina with Barack and Michelle.Daytime TV diva Oprah Winfrey's support of Illinois Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his wife Michelle turns out to have cost her perhaps more than she helped him

The 54-year-old Chicago TV hostess certainly helped raise a hefty chunk of change by loaning out her estate for that Obama fundraiser last summer.

Oprah Winfrey has long enjoyed an immense popularity tied to her long-running daytime TV show, which started in 1986, and helped give her favorable ratings around 78% by 1996. So well known is she that one name will suffice, as in our headline.

In one 1999 survey of the most admired and respected 20th-century women, Oprah (26%) came in only second to Mother Teresa (33%), who didn't have her own TV show. And in 2003 a Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll found that 60% thought Oprah was a more powerful woman than someone named Hillary Clinton, a former first lady and senator, who drew only 28%.

Fourteen months ago, a Gallup/USA Today poll found 74% of Americans had a favorable view of the TV personality.

Then on May 1 last year, Oprah announced during....

the Larry King show that she was, for the first time, going to throw her considerable weight behind a political candidate -- Obama.  King's suspenders nearly snapped.

“I think," she told old Lar, "that my value to him, my support of him, is probably worth more than any check.” Although, to be honest, her estimated $2.5 billion in wealth could buy an awful lot of TV ads in Indiana. It might even be able to purchase the Hoosier State. 

But little attention has been paid to the effect of Obama on Oprah. Now along comes Costas Panagopoulos, an assistant professor of political science at New York's Fordham University, to ask and answer just that question.

Writing at, he suggests the aging empress of TV has paid a price for getting into the dirty business of politics with and for her man Barack. By August last year, a CBS poll found her favorabMother Teresa who beat out TV talk-show hostess and billionaire Oprah Winfrey as most admired woman of the 20th centuryle rating had plunged from 74% to 61%, still twice as good as the president but nearly a 20% drop.

Around Thanksgiving she announced that not only was she supporting Obama, but she would campaign with him and we'd see if her political recommendation carried as much weight as her book recommendations. Oprah's political travels produced a media feeding frenzy and a publicity bonanza with women routinely fainting in the front row. The campaign said her rallies produced 10,000 new volunteers.

Winfrey campaigned for Obama in Iowa, which he won, in South Carolina, where he won, and in New Hampshire, where he lost. We haven't heard much about Winfrey since the voting started. Did she realize something we're just getting?  We heard only that she left the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ several years ago, reportedly over some of his more militant sermons that Obama says he never heard.

But 10 days after the campaign media explosion her favorable rating had dropped further to 55% and her unfavorable ratings for the first time climbed to 1 in 3.

A December ABC/Washington Post poll of Democrats found 8% were persuaded by her Obama endorsement, 82% said it wouldn't matter either way and 10% said her recommendation had turned them off Obama.

Now, Panagopoulos has discovered an AOL TV popularity survey of 1.35 million Americans that found 46% said the daytime TV host who "made their day" was Ellen DeGeneres while only 19% chose Winfrey. Forty-seven percent said they'd like to have dinner with Ellen, while only 14% chose Oprah.

Apparently, neither Ellen nor Oprah were asked who they'd like to dine with.

Panagopoulos draws the conclusion that in these days of pervasive media, in reality, celebrity endorsements run the real risk of costing the celebrity more than they benefit the endorsee. So celebs may want to think twice before hitting the stump.

But then how many hundred million dollars a year does an assistant professor at Fordham pull down?

-- Andrew Malcolm

Photo credit: Newsday, Archdiocese of Colombo

Comments () | Archives (515)

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Oprah has been on her talk show for over 20 years. She has never endorsed anyone before. So, what if she's finally doing it now.

Since her endorsement, Barak has not been on her show. Each show gets over 10 million viewers. However, Bill Clinton has been on her show twice. Also John Edwards was on her show. But Barak has not been on her show since her announcement of her support. You also forgot to mention that she had a rally for him in California and he lost.

She is an American, tax paying citizen. She has the right to support anyone she chooses. If she'd supported Hilary people would have accused her of pandering to her predominately white female audience.

Clearly this shows that there are more politically savvy Americans out there than what polls give them credit for!

And the question remains... "Why did Obama stay at the Church". This is bothersome, especially now that we know even Oprah left after those diatribes!

The MEDIA and PRESS should VET Obama on his POLITICAL WILL AND MORAL COMPASS!!! Is he guided by the teachings of this Church and Pastor?

There is no way he can claim that he has not been infected by this, after 20 years of infusion, spiritually. Will this carry into the "Presidency" if he wins the nomination and election?

This is too serious to let go.

Well, don't be so sure that her support of Obama is the leading cause of Oprah's drop in popularity. Her embrace of "The Secret" and the "New Age Jesus" writings of Eckhart Tolle has alienated religious conservatives--if all those emails my 56-year-old mother keeps forwarding to me are any indication, anyway.

If this survey was done by Fox then I do not believe it. 75% of Foxnews listners would not like Oprah whether she supported Barack or not. Anyone that likes Hannity definitely would not like Oprah.

"By August last year, a CBS poll found her favorabMother Teresa who beat out TV talk-show hostess and billionaire Oprah Winfrey as most admired woman of the 20th centuryle rating had plunged from 74% to 61%, still twice as good as the president but nearly a 20% drop."

Uh.. I agree Oprah's popularity has decreased but this reporter needs to go back to elementary math. How is a drop from 74 to 61 nearly 20? It's only 13%! Closer to 10% than 20%!

Was the aol poll scientific or just an online poll?

This proves there are many idiots in the US. A decent lady that most people like, comes out in favor of someone from her state and her race, and people take their "positive" feeling away from someone? What a bunch of idiots. I get along with New Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals here in Canada, I respect any way they want to vote. Boy am I glad I don't live in the US of A

Shouldn't Rev. Wright's racist position have told anyone concerned about our great country that any followers would not be fit for a dog chatcher postion???.

The focus on this issue illustrates perfectly why the average american voter is an irrepressible nincompoop and why this country has gotten exactly what it deserves from W. and Co. The rest of the world is duly unimpressed with this country's political system, political leadership, and the intelligence of the voters who perpetuate it. Yes, that means ALL OF YOU blabbing on this website!!!

In responce to Lincoln. I hope you wouldn't belave a poll cone by CNN because 75% or of there viewers would support any democrate over any republicam.

Shouldn't Rev. Wright's racist position have told anyone concerned about our great country's future that any followers of his would not be fit for a dog catcher position???.

Andrew, pick up a calculator next time before you try to weigh in on more serious subjects like Oprah.

"..had plunged from 74% to 61%, still twice as good as the president but nearly a 20% drop." Since when does 13% magically round up to 20%?

"By August last year, a CBS poll found her favorable rating had plunged from 74% to 61%, still twice as good as the president but nearly a 20% drop."

In what universe is 13% "nearly 20%"?

This article throws a bunch a numbers at the wall and sees what sticks. Poorly executed.

C'mon BJ - "why did Obama stay at the church"?

Barack has written two books, made countless speeches, written during his time as the Havard Law Review president, drafted and passed numerous pieces of legislation. Nothing in his past suggests that he in any way can be aligned with those 30-second sound bites from Rev. Wright. No member of any church can be held accountabe for every utterance that proceeds from the mouth of his or her pastor.

Furthermore, there is much more to Trinity UCC than those 30 seconds of inflammatory statements, which by the way Obama has denounced forcefully. This church does work on HIV/AIDS, owns two senior centers, engages in far reaching community development efforts, even offers yoga classes. There is much more to being a member of this congregation than those clips played over and over on the news.

He remained a member for the Church. Preachers come and go - the Church is eternal.

well considering hillary's core supporters as well as oprah's core fans (aging white women) are the same, it makes sense.

Frankly, I don't know how anyone can compare Oprah with Mother Teresa, not even close!!!!!!!!!!!!

An interesting article but one that misses a key point. For several years now, Oprah has been maintaining her popularity but losing her relevence, She was largely resting on laurels earned years before, and had spent more and more time the butt of jokes than the darling of the media. I think she felt compelled to come out and support someone just so she could get her name out in the media for more than what the latest book club joke was. She's been on her way out for several years now, so it shouldn't come as a major surpises that her poll numbers are catching up to her.

Oprah has been sliding not only because of her suport of Obama but her show has became a religion. She has let everyone know how new age she is and that turns a lot of Christians off. She is not as intertaining.

I've got news for your purported professor! Based on the info published there is ZERO basis for inferring even a correlation between Oprah's purportedly lower popularity and her association with Obama. Let alone a causal relationship! This is pure anecdotal stuff. Your prof needs to go back to math stats school. I have a B.Sc in maths and an MBA. As for BJ above, I feel sorry for him. He's fixated on Wright. The only place "the question remains" is in your mind, pal. The voters have long moved on, based on Obama's brilliant speech on that subject. Get used to it, Clinton is history.

Way to go lincoln! Nice bigoted comments! Give me a break - You don't even know who conducted the poll, and rant irresponsibly and without forethought. If you had taken the time to READ the article, you would notice that FOX was not mentioned. In fact, CBS, ABC and USA/Gallup WERE mentioned.

We who work could care less.
I couldn't care less what the non-workers are watching or feeling.

It's just sad that these people who actually participate in these polls get a vote for our leaders. It's time to limit who can vote. It's quite a slippery slope, but it's got to be better than this mob rule (aka democracy)! The architects never intended for a democracy; there must be more of a buffer between the masses and those who are actually competent to make decisions regarding the governance of our country.

We don't let the children make the rules at schools, why do we let the 'children' of society make the rules?

And of course I have all the answers and should be 'the decider' ....

How is a drop from 74% to 61% "nearly 20%?" How is 14 close to 20? Why is this even newsworthy. If you have to fudge the facts, there is an agenda behind the article. What could it be?

After Oprah announced that she doesn't believe Jesus is the ONLY way to Heaven,and that she is mis leading so many people down the wrong path,I no longer watch her shows.

I never watch daytime TV but if the women in my family are any measure this drop in popularity is correct. They are a mix politically, mostly moderate but they were all big Oprah fans. They felt she was above the politics of the day. Now they all, every one of them, feel that she sold out and they no longer watch her, at least so they say. I know my WIfe now watches Ellen when she is home at that time. I also know that my sister in law posted her anger on the Oprah web site.
Don't make light of this, I think it is true.

To mention 'Mother Teresa' in the same article as Obama and Oprah and Jeremiah Wright is a great disservice to a human being whose shoe soles would not bear the crap of the other three if she walked through a Chicago sewer.

How is 74% to 61% "nearly a 20% drop"? Closer to but still shy of 15%, wouldn't you say? This is why no one trusts the main stream media, particularly the LA Times.

"By August last year, a CBS poll found her favorable rating had plunged from 74% to 61%, still twice as good as the president but nearly a 20% drop."

I quit reading at the statement above, typical LA Times truck. Hey we can do math and read.

At least she had sense enough to endorse the right candidate. Oprah new she was taking a chance and would not had done it if she was not sure that Obama was a good man. Oprah had the guts to go out on the limb because the other two candidates would be a disaster for this country and she knows it.

It's time for change. No more warmongering from McCain and no more Clinton shenanigans.

I find it ironic and humorous that Oprah's, who audience is made up of mostly over 40 year old white women, would be foolish to ad her "wares" to a political candidate. Of course we all know why she supports Obama, but where is Obama's support from the over 40 year old white women? That speaks volumes for those who actually think Oprah has any clout in the political arena.

Oprah + Obama = Overrated

Oprah supporting Obama and going to the Trinity church has hurt her. Obama with his radical talk about souls, no cynicism and voters supporting him because of having a religious epiphany is weird. Oprah's has shown some anti-white view points and with her association with Obama and this radical church it is now understandable.

Wow, nothing like a cynic to make a believer out of me. Fox does not poll Fox listeners. Fox polls Americans. Anyone who does not understand how polls are done is not qualified to determine what is or is not believable. Plus the notion that someone who likes Hannity would not like Oprah is just plain silly. MOST LIKE BOTH, HENCE THEIR RATINGS, DUH!

Oprah chose to back a black male Democrat from Chicago, as opposed to a white female Democrat formerly from Chicago. When she backs a Democrat she turns off 50% of her audience. When she chooses to back one Democrat over another Democrat, she turns off 75% of her audience.

Adding the evilness of Wright, and the petulance of Michelle, with the inability of Barak to tell those who are doing him harm to "pipe down," that figure could go higher.

It was her decision, and she made it. However, in retrospect, she may have precipitated her own demise as Queen of TV.

I think her audience was surprised because it separates Oprah from a large percentage of her audience, politically. Many of my friends & I stay friends by agreeing to disagree & not discussing our candidates. If 1/3 is for Hillary & 1/3 is for McCain, the majority of Oprah's fans may disagree with her crusade.

Or---it may just be Oprah fatigue. I don't watch her but respect her, if not her choice of candidates. My husband, however, is mystified by the ubiquity of Oprah & the deification by her fans.

I used to watch oprah faithfully...but once she came out backing obama I have refused to watch any of her shows, even the one on sundays. Ellen has filled that niche nicely, until she too, gets politicky.

IMO, oprah is not visible anymore because there can only be one strong female on the obama stage and that is michelle.

I think this article is missing the effect of the "Oprah Church" this has left a bad taste in a lot of mouths.

It's more than high time the main stream media covered this angle. There WILL be more to come as the DNC convention approaches. If Obama is the nominee you can expect with certainty that all the ugly information will surface like maggots on a decaying carcass.

"But then how many hundred million dollars a year does an assistant professor at Fordham pull down?"

Nice. Now Mr. Malcolm is valuing a person's opinion by their annual income. I wonder if he believes the "rich" should run the country? Britney makes a lot of money - I suppose we should just accept that she's more rational than everybody that makes less than her. LOL

I guess, based on income, journalists and bloggers are moronic.

I laugh when everyone blames Fox news for everything that is bad in the world...oddly enough, based on ratings Foxnews has more Democrat viewers than Republicans.

Oprah can support anyone she wants, that is her right...Viewers also have the same right to select other shows to watch and support.

Llincoln, how in the world do you tie this to Fox News? Talk about a myopic view of things... they aren't even mentioned in the news. I think Pete has it much closer to the truth. Oprah has clout, but when she uses that clout for issues such as the New Age Jesus, she is losing supporters.

With 2 plus billions dollars in my bank account , I could care less if people dont like me, as long as my pets are in my bed and running around my ESTATE. I AM IN HEAVEN.

oprah is looking for a spot in politics now. getting tired of
crying on the blabber show. oh i want to go and help in africa. just a bunch of sheep.

Oprahs approval didn't sink due to Obama it sunk because Ellen is a great daytime talk show and Oprah has become almost TOO religious.

lincoln, you are clearly a stereotypical bigot, with all its ugly trappings.

In what world does 74% to 61%, which is a 13% drop, justify the portion of this article which states Oprah's favorable ratings had dropped "nearly 20%"?

I've never witnessed a writer contradict his or herself just five words after the actually statistics.

13 is not on this planet or anywhere in the universe "nearly" 20.

Or, maybe Oprah is just boring. All that new age garbage, the badly written books, the "its all about ME" attitude put me off long ago. I like Obama, its Oprah who I wish would shut up and go away.
BTW, why is it OK for so-called Christians to vilify gays and feminists, but Rev. Wright can't have his opinions? Pat Robertson isn't a fear-mongering racist and homophobe?The Pope doesn't think gays are going to he##? Should we be boycotting ALL churches, or just the ones that go after people like me?

Bush and the Republicans have received endorsements from rightwing religious nuts for years - Pat Robertson as just one case. These are so called religious leaders who have said AIDS is a punishment by God for homosexuality etc. - amongst other nonsense statements.

Has this carried into Bush's presidency since he won the nomination and, perhaps, the election?

This is too serious to let go.

lincoln writes:
If this survey was done by Fox then I do not believe it. 75% of Foxnews listners would not like Oprah whether she supported Barack or not. Anyone that likes Hannity definitely would not like Oprah.

Where's your head linc? I didn't see one reference in this article related to FoxNews. So what's your point, or is it just that your only another blind, hateful liberal, with a need to vent to no one in particular?


I find the the jab against President Bush to be in rather poor taste. No one cares that Oprah's approval rating may be "twice as good as the president's" - especially when one stops to consider the fact that they're two very different types of numbers.

While both are called 'approval ratings,' they're not the same. I'd expect a journalist for the LA Times to be able to understand this... shame on you.

This is just a side note, I do not appreciate the insinuation the 2.5 billion dollars could buy my home state of Indiana. I know that we may not be one of the largest or wealthiest states, but are more than mere hicks, redncks, and farmers. I implore the coastal communities to spare their ignorant generalities of us, the majority of Americans.

People are getting tired of manipulative, weepy old leftist BS on TV?

I'll believe that when I see it. Millions of American are as dumb as democRats.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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