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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 made several statements revealing her to be a closet racist so it is understandable why she'd donate her "considerable weight" to Obama's campaign. It is curious to ponder why she has not continued to voice her support now. Either she has developed some misgivings (understandable) or she is more concerned about her own popularity and ratings being hurt. Neither scenario helps Oprah.

Lincoln... You sure are good at labeling people aren't you? I watch Fox News - but not only Fox - I watch the others too. I almost daily notice blatant bias on the part of the "mainstream media" which, no doubt has effected you and others who listen daily to their propaganda. Its been well-documented. Fox has people from different views at least. Maybe a couple more commentators on the right, but definitely more balanced than the others. I, for one, liked Oprah and Hannity up until this election. But for while now, before the Obama endorsement, I have begun to feel that Oprah is way over-rated and obviously full of herself. Hannity was ridiculous about McCain - as are other conservatives like Ann Couter. MCain is the best choice for America. He is not too conservative and not a radical liberal like Obama. I actually like some of what Clinton says, but who knows what to believe of her? You need to get your blinders off and really listen and read - all viewpoints. The problem Obama has with his religious influences (primarily his former pastor) is a HUGE problem. It calls into question his judgment, his attitude, his morals - everything! Americans are idiots if they elect him knowing the anti-American, totally racist views he has listened to, without objection, for 20 years, in my opinion.

since when is 13 nearly 20?

I'm really shocked that Oprah took a hit by endorsing Obama. I've never spoken to a single person who watched Oprah that I would describe as either knowledgeable or whose opinion, on anything more serious than shoe style, I would respect.

Lincoln. living inside the liberal echo chamber, doesn't know what a Fox viewer is or what a conservative is.

I'm a Fox viewer, a conservative, an Oprah admirer and maybe an Obama voter.

A rather biased report. From 74 to 61 "nearly a 20% drop"? Try 17.5%, which could also be reported as "holding her favorable rating at almost 85% of her previous max, even though she is endorsing a Democratic candidate with only 25% of overall followers(slightly more than 50% of the democrats behind him, and not many republicans)", if you wanted to put a positive spin.

Also, I bet if Obama ends up winning the election, Oprahs rating in Aug 07 will not be that relevant to her

Why I was upset with Oprah is that she her billion dollars because she had her show for WOMAN - men did not cause her rise to fame. Woman backed her supported she knows better than anyone the struggles women have to be treated equally and fairly and she jumped right into Obama's arms telling us he could walk on water.I really resented what she did as Hillary stands up there often alone battling powerful men who hate woman to be in a powerful position that is why I LOVE Jack Nickilson

As someone that use to be a fan of Oprah's, I can attest to being in the group that no longer listens to or watches Oprah. She spent her entire career promoting women, yet for the first time in history, a woman is running for prez, and she rejects Hillary for a man (I am not even a Hillary supporter and that just rubbed me wrong - how about supporting both of them since they have the same platform).

Oprah is a fraud. I lost all respect for her, and began to see her in a different light - a manipulative egomaniac that is hell bent on growing her all powerful empire. Obama will just be another puppet to add to her empire's cast of characters.

Apparently strong women like Hillary are too much of a threat to Oprah.


Maybe part of that decline has to do with her preaching that are posted on u tube.

Lincoln has a major logic issue. How ignorant is it to say that anyone who likes Hannity wouldn't like Ophrah!! I like them both. What's not to like?? I am a Republican but I'm not limited to only liking similar people. I have friends who are liberals. I think they are nuts politically but alright in other ways. I am also a Catholic but I have friends who are not. What a dummy Lincoln is and so many who think like him.

I'm very much her target audience and for me, it has a lot less to do with Obama and more to do with "The New Earth" , and other new age cult like books and studies she has been pushing. We know she is a liberal, so the idea that she would rally for Obama came as no real shock. She rarely, if ever, talks about it on her show. I stopped watching because I felt that she was starting to push religious ideas in stark contrast to what I believe. In short, I may forgive her for being a liberal, but when she messed with God, she went too far. What's next for the book club? L. Ron Hubbard?

Hey Lincoln,

The Fox poll was the one that said Oprah was popular. The one that cited her popularity as slipping was AOL.

Quit trying to kill the messenger.

The fact is that Oprah is NOT just a person -- she is a BRAND. You can bet that if Coke or Pepsi came forward and endorsed somebody -- no matter who -- it would turn some of their loyal customers off. And that's exactly what happened here.

Oprah has fallen for frauds before (remember a Million LIttle Pieces by James Frey). Oprah is a has been. She is old news. I don't know one person who watches her show. Maybe I hang out with better educated people who have full lives. But if you watch Oprah, you are considered lazy and stupid.

This election is going to set back race relations at least 40 years. As a matter of fact, I don't imagine race relations ever to approach any sort of harmony again. There will be nothing but glaring back and forth, leavened with sporadic physical violence, for the next 50 years, if we last that long. And it won't make any difference who is elected. These chickens, too, are coming home to roost. Congratulations, morons.

The support of white women made Oprah her billions. While she has every right to vote and campaign for whomever she wants, she stabbed all women in the back. She used her clout against the first viable white woman. Hope she sinks into oblivion. I will never forget.

how is it that federal law limits you and i to a $2300 donation to a federal candidate, but oprah can give him TV exposure, endorsements, and the use of her home? surely these contributions are worth far more than $2300.
i seem to recall a case (2000?) where a guy used his website to support a candidate. he was harassed by authorities because his website was considered a political contribution.
so why is oprah given a pass?

Obama would not appear for an interview on Fox's Hannity and Colmes, he would have to answer real questions regarding his policies instead of his empty talk and slogans.

"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."

Wow you can't get any more intelligent than that-. The Fox News argument is played out more people watch it than any other network because it is the most fair...period!Also, since I like Hannity and I am a conservative that mean that I hate black people--I forgot!

Article says, "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." Uh, since when is 13 almost 20? Just wondering.

And lincoln, yes it is possible to like both Sean Hannity and Oprah. I do. I'm a conservative who admires Oprah's good works and I find her personality pleasant. I not only like many liberals, some even like me. I feel sorry for anyone whose only friends are clones.

'....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.'

thanks, times. i may just be a kid, but even I know that 74-61=13, not 'nearly 20.'

I generally dislike ANY celerity that has the gall to think that by virtue of working in the entertainment business they have the standing necessary to officially endorse a political candidate. Most of them are narcissistic, drug abusers, alcohol abusers, uneducated, adulterous, amoral, hypocritical, and unrepresentative of Middle America; or some combination thereof. At best such endorsements can be ignored. A candidate receiving enough of them would cause me concern.

George Bush was on her show as a candidate for Prez, and he even bussed her on the cheek.

Didn't you read the article about women starting a petition on How Oprah sold women out by supporting Obama. I remember reading that somewhere.

The fact that a non talent like Ellen DeGeneres is now more popular than Oprah shows that women have turned against Winfrey for opening her mouth. She should stick to her talk show and leave politics alone.

"...CBS poll found her favorable rating had plunged from 74% to 61%, still twice as good as the president but nearly a 20% drop."
----UMM... duh, that's only a 13% drop, so even if you round it it would be closer to 10% than 20% first of all, secondly that's a poll that was taken LAST AUGUST, who the hell is throwing around results of polls from over 9 months ago???

Oh and I really respect the results of a aol tv popularity survey...sounds REALLY scientific...give me a break all and all just a BAD ariticle. What the hell is the point here? Celebrities shouldn't endorse canidates?

(Dearest Peter--You and everyone else here thinking that a drop from 74% to 61% isn't "nearly a 20% drop" need to re-learn how to calculate percentages. It's a drop of 13 points. 13 divided by 74 = 17.6%. That's "nearly a 20% drop." Thanks for reading.)

Brings up another famous Chicago icon...Micheal Jordan:

When asked why he wouldn't endorse a democrat he was friendly with he replied: "Republicans buy shoes too"

Jordan understood what Oprah doesn't...while he and she had the right to endorse anyone they wanted, there may be a price to pay. People of course, have the right as well to let your words and choices reflect on their opinions of you...and if your image is your meal ticket, you might be better off keeping your mouth shut with regards to politics, of which many have strong ingrained opinions.

Popularity polls fluxuate a lot and she will probably bounce back. I don't support Obama or watch Oprah but she ws a great actress even before she became an icon and it makes me happy that she is making all that money.

Maybe people just don't like Oprah anymore. Maybe her brand has lost its appeal. Perhaps her fans are tired of being preached at by a rich celebrity.

And then again, maybe her fans have figured out that Obama is a racist and his true feelings reflect those of his pastor of 20 years.

I think it has more to do with her views on Christianity and her profession that we can all be Gods. The repudiation of mainline Christianity has more of an affect on her popularity than her political views. Not that many Americans are new agers.

Lincoln's comment about FOX NEWS shows a common misconception among liberals. The fact is, according to a survey done 6 - 9 months ago, the MAJORITY of viewers of FOX NEWS are INDEPENDENTS. As an indenpendent voter, I can understand that as you do get both sides to the story on FOX. Of course no self respecting liberal news outlet like MSNBC would give you the same courtesy.

Many of you are confusing the difference between 74% and 61%, which is 13% ,with the percent change which is 17.6%. (13/74) * 100 =17.6%

Glass houses.

Oprah Winfrey goes to the same church that Barack Obama attends. People should start questioning BOTH of them and what they think of the minister who spouts hatred of white people and anti-US sentiments.

There are a lot of people criticizing the number 20%.
In fact the reporter is right because (74-61)/74 is 17.6% close to 20%.

It amazes me that so many people are angry at Oprah for supporting Obama because he's black, yet these SAME people contend that she should support Hillary because she's a woman.

First off, let's get this straight, as a black woman, I'm black first of all. My experiences in this world as a black woman is not that of white women, who have been the primary benefactors of affirmative action policies, which I am against. The fact remains, Hillary is not the right woman candidate, no matter how you slice it. She's polarizing and way too desperate to become President, which is a major turn-off because she could careless about the Democratic Party or anyone else, she just wants to achieve a goal.

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?

Posted by: alison | April 09,

61% divided by 74% is 82.4% of previous level. Therefore a drop of 17.6% which is a nearly 20% drop.

For all the math-challendge people.
74% to 61% is a difference of 13 percentage points. 13 percentage points represents 18% of the original 74 percent popularity. So, when you go from 74% down to 61% that represents an 18% drop. Again, based on the original 74%. So, he rounded up from 18.

None of it matters anyway, Obamas getting votes from people who never watch Oprah and don't care who she is.

You know if I see one more person say that 74-61=13 i will blow up...we get that ok? Here is my issue, everyone can say what is wrong and bash someone, but no one will give any different ideas.

All I hear from any dem. is lets make government bigger! Lets take the money from the rich! Who will pay for all this free healthcare? Hard working Americans, thats who. So you can have free health care, food stamps, welfare, free housing, free power to watch BIG Oprah..Why work? Its all free.

No, No, No,its not free you non-thinking so called Americans. It is paid for by hard working American Taxes. I could write all day to you people, but it would do no good, everyone is entitled to their opinion, so am I. Thats my word for today.

All this talk makes me wonder one thing: Is Ellen Degenress trying to be a man or a woman?

I met blessed Mother Teresa. Trust this - Oprah Winfrey is NO Mother Teresa! Not even close.

Mother Teresa never tried to throw "her weight" around.

While Mother Teresa only wanted to bring the compassion of our Savior Jesus Christ to the world's sick and needy, Oprah Winfrey just wants to showcase herself.

Blessed Mother Teresa never politicized anything, Oprah has been building for this moment for a long time. She has a candidate, and she's gunning for for him to win.


If you think Oompa's tv show has become a moral statement on her interpretation of life, then listen to her real New-Age program on XM radio. Talk about a bunch of crap.

I also find it troubling that Oompa would pick a black man over a white woman. Where's the press and the shame!

Hey Dom,

You stated that the drop was from 74% to 61% and that was closer to 10% than 20%.

Read on down the article bro. It states that she has fallen further down to 55%. That is 19 points, close to 20, don't you think?

The intellegence level in you oprah fans is astounding. Great math skills. I can see why you still support Big O. As a discount it is 17.5%. As a percentage difference, calculate 61+20% (12.2)=73.2 which is the 20% referred to in the article. Either way is acceptable depending on the verbage. Those of you who think it is 13% or 10% are idiots.

Personally, I liked the O before her endorsement and it had nothing to do with whom she endorsed. I was offended that she presumes to come off the throne and tell us phesants who to vote fore like all the other hollywood morons that do the same. It's like Ted danson telling us the oceans would be uninhabitable in 10 years like he was some kind of expert. 10 years are long gone and no fish died. Thanks King Ted and Queen O.

All celebrities should keep their political views to themselves. I don't care! You aren't going to sway me if I disagree with you. I have my own mind and can make my own decisions.

As far as Obama's hate filled preacher goes... Absolutely, he has the right to be as bitter and hateful as he wants to be. However, the difference between him and Pat Robertson or whoever else is being thrown about in this discussion... J.Wright is Obama's mentor! There is a close relationship there. It's not some random preacher jumping on the band wagon cause you are the only candidate left that may even remotely support something they agree with. Big difference!

All three of these candidates stink! Can we just get a "do over"? Obama is a typical, liberal socialist who won't defend the country and will tax and spend us into oblivion. Plus, he's a possible racist. Actually read his books people! Hillary is about the same as Obama politically, just maybe not as extreme. McCain is a somewhat liberal, hot head. At least, everyone will be able to agree with McCain about half the time. He wants to leave the border open and throw money at the global warming fantasy (just like Obama and Hillary) so that should make the libs happy, but he will be willing to defend the country more than the other two and that should make the conservatives happy. Either way... We're screwed big time!

The foolish article is only interesting from the standpoint of the number of readers, apparently adults, who are unable to do math. Although Peter has already noted the fact, I'll reiterate for the dozen or so folks that can only comprehend percentages as 3rd grade math and can only subtract. The drop of 13 percentage points from 74 to 61 (for those who can't follow this it's 74 minus 61 equals 13) needs to be divided by the starting percentage (74% if you're still awake). 13 divided by 74 equals 17.5. Rounding up to 18%, the original contention of almost 20% quoted by the author means that 18% is pretty ##&)(& close to 20%. In everything except horseshoes and hand grenades that's true. The bottom line is that the left*wing biased educational system is still not teaching people how to do math, or else the morons who can't remember make up a larger population than people who can count on more than they're fingers and toes. Ughh!!!

She has sacrificed her credibility and impartiality on politics. Anything she says from this point forward on any subject will scrutinized for partisan content. She certainly has the right to do so, but it wasn't a good career move.

For all you math deficient people, going from 74% to 61% approval is a drop of exactly 17.57% not 13%. Go back to school and re-learn 4th grade math.

If she went from 74% to 66.6%, it would be a 10% drop. Get it liberal geniuses? or does this troglodyte conservative need to spell it out further?

To the mathematics wizards on this thread,

RE: "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."

The ratio is 61% to 74%, which is 0.8243, so the "drop" was 17.57%, or "nearly a 20% drop."

Wake up, read, and think ! ! !

To clear things up, I'm no genious but article said 20%, not 20 percentage points. There is a big difference. This is why blogs should be taken down, people are too $tupid and they prove it each time they post.

Thank you to James Marsden for doing the math properly.

Going from 74% to 61% is a 17.6% drop just like going from 74% to 37% would have been a 50% drop.

And I thought Obama supporters were supposed to be the educated ones... Yikes!

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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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