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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 Winfrey has made her billions being the imaginary black friend for millions of depressed white liberal women. As long as that fantasy remains intact she will be popular. When she wants them to do something other then wallow in their neuroses, like get out and vote or something like that, then the spell is broken.

You guys need to learn basic math skills. What's 20% of 74? 14.8. She dropped by 13 points from 74 to 61. That is about a 17.5% decrease.

You clowns probably think a drop for 4 to 2 is a drop of 2 rather than a drop of 50%.

"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."

It is 20% NOT 13% drop.

The whole sentence doesn't even make sense if you read it as 13%, but lets try...

" still twice as good as the president"
200% = twice as good
(30%~ Bush's approval ).


so it can read
200% * 30% = 60%

but that not right, right math chalanged?

soo using liberal math!
If George Bush's approval went up twice as much(200%) he would be at 230% approval rating!


Just seeing GWB at 230% approval might get a lib to pick up a math book.

Who the heck is Oprah?

I do not think anyone should say anything at all about Reverend Wright until you know more about him than the "crazy clip" we all saw on MSM. It's just not fair to him. How would any of us like it if someone spliced together a bunch of our biggest bloopers, or made them sound like bloopers because of the way they were linked together. Make up your own mind. You can see some of his sermons or large portions of them on You-Tube. In my humble opinion, Reverend Wright is a very very good man and he has helped many -- he just says some stupid things sometimes (like most of us non-political types.)

I could not care less what oprah thinks about anything!

maybe I am wrong but my calculations lead me to believe that a drop from 74 to 61 is about 18% which is nearly 20%. Please advise me if I am wrong.

I have never watched Oprah and have never made a decision as a voter based on the endorsement of a celebrity.

My suspicion is that her declining ratings may be due more to the possiblity that the younger generation does not find her to be hip and cool. Add to that the possibility that some of her fans found the Saint Oprah image to be a bit much.

Who is Oprah? Why do we care about what affects Oprah? the MATH. The LOGICAL, OVER EDUCATED, IVORY TOWER answer. Deluded REALITY. Or, the well planned intentions of a CRAFTY Author.
Let Uncle Benny help you navigate the REAL WORLD Boys & Girls. And remember, always believe YOUR reality and VOTE YOUR heart.
The difference between 74% and 61% is 13%.
Now, if you have an argument to make, motive to SKEW numbers, or want to cause CONTROVERSY and provoke a response, then the NEW MATH calculations are correct. 14.8%.
But, 14.8% still isn't equal or close to 20%. Closer than 13%. But we're not trying to determine if 14.8% is closer 20%. We're trying to determine a net loss. The hard numbers (and remember Boys & Girls, In REAL LIFE only HARD NUMBERS count) are either 13% or 14.8%. But, in this case, the HARD NUMBERS are not extreme enough to validate the premise of this article. So, we get close to 20%. And, get influenced by an article, whose author causes controversy and gets major response from all the above, including me.
BRAVO Andrew! Good job. Now take your tax deductions using NEW Math. Or, bolster your next compensation increase with skewed calculations.
Best of LUCK!

(Oh, Uncle Benny. You've just embarrassed yourself. The math miscalculation by too many readers has been explained several times in comments from other readers and the moderator above. You can check there -- before Tax Day. Thanks for reading.)

What the hell difference does it make what Oprah's rating is anyway? She's not running for any political office. Most Republicans have always hated her anyway and I have never found anyone who could explain why. Probably because she is liberal and rich. I am sure that a drop in her popularity will not effect her pocket book enough to make a difference. She will still be a rich liberal and this is what Republicans don't like.

Uhhh... for the record, I am NOT math challenged AND I support Obama. See my previous comment re: hoping the math challenged here are not home-schooling.

My point, alas, is that a lack of basic intellectual prowess pervades both parties and all demographics.

Conservatives (and I know lots of you) are not, as a group, more intelligent than liberals (and I know lots of you too).

I am an independent who wishes Americans across the board used their heads more...and who can't wait for the Bush era to end.

I don't think it's her support of Obama but this recent support for new age pagan junk she has sponsered and is endorsing ... that has brought her ratings down.

Pssst... Want to scare talk show hosts right out of their Pradas? Hand those holier-than-thou-self-absorbed self-righteous-overpaid-I'll-tell-you-what-to-read-and-how-to-vote-and-how-to-think-and-suck-the-lifeblood-right-out-of-you windbags their biggest fear: Anonymity. Turn off the freaking television.

I respected Oprah for many things that she championed in the past like taking on the beef industry over mad cow disease for example. But when she backed this racist "Hate America First" politician who we wouldn't even be talking about if but for a CORRUPT decision by a left wing, Jerry Brown appointed, LA judge who opened SEALED divorce papers to reveal what could just be a pile of total LIES by Jeri Ryan that will NEVER be vetted one way or the other - that's when I lost ALL respect for Oprah...

Well, I for one have gained new respect for Oprah. While I don't necessarily care who she supports for president, I certainly acknowledge her right to have an opinion and to share it. Who says the political opinions of Sean Hannity or Keith Olbermann are any more informed or important than Oprah's? Personally, I like to make up my own mind.

I am, however, very interested in her "New Age" Jesus ideas. Since I don't watch her show, I had never heard of this. Just the sound of it makes my approval rating for her go way up.

I am assuming it is based on the very true observations that Jesus was UNQUESTIONABLY ...

1) a member of the Essene sect (as was John the Baptist) -- a SECULAR HUMANIST group

2) neither a believer in "Judgement Day" ("Judge not and you will not be judged"), nor the Apocalpyse ("Revelations" was written nearly 7 decades after His ministry), nor in Hell (created nearly 1000 years after His ministry) and certainly not the Rapture (created nearly 1900 years after His ministry)


Any "Christian" who condemns others is going against His EXPRESS COMMANDS not to do this.

Any "Christian" who treats ANYONE as an INFERIOR is going against His EXPRESS COMMANDS not to do this.

Any "Christian" who does not devote himself to helping the poor and disenfranchised is going against His EXPRESS COMMANDS to do this. ("What you do to the least of my brothers you do to me")

As to Jesus' race, his ancestors were from Africa (that's where Egypt is -- look it up sometime) and he most CERTAINLY was not a WASP.

I think most of you so-called Christians prefer the more harsh, authoritarian, ego-mad, vain, jealous, mercurial, impetuous "God" of the OLD testament and not the calm, thoughtful, peace-loving, inward-looking, egalitarian, human-rights supporter, Jesus, of the NEW testament.

Ironically, that would make most of you law and order, fire and brimstone, judge first in order to intimidate others from judging you "Old Testament" Christians ... well, Orthodox Jews.

By the way, eating shrimp is also an abomination in the Old Testament. If you're going to follow some of the rules, why not follow all of them?

This "non worker" thinks for herself and does not watch
Oprah. It's no shocker her ratings have dropped. From the commercials around noon news time, I gather there are more "worker women" watching than "non worker". Takes more than one income to afford all the products she pushes. Oprah lost me years ago. She ia and has always been out of touch with this "non worker" woman.
We should not take any entertainers support of any candidate serious. That is just silly. You vote with your values not vanity.

I stopped watching Oprah after she threw herself a big birthday party, which she made into a week-long Oprah show, with all her Entertainment friends showing up to say how great she is. How sick is that! Then she threw this big party at her Hollywood mansion to celebrate all these successful black women - mostly actresses and singers. She gave expensive gifts to each (paid for, I'm sure by the show and not Oprah). Another party (tv show) to show us all how important she is! During the show Oprah presents each woman with an expensive gift, as if she paid for them herself. You know the Oprah show paid for both parties and all the gifts. I'm glad that Oprah has lost some of her popularity. I guess she thought she could turn her viewers into Obama voters.

This "non worker" thinks for herself and does not watch
Oprah. It's no shocker her ratings have dropped. From the commercials around noon news time, I gather there are more "worker women" watching than "non worker". Takes more than one income to afford all the products she pushes. Oprah lost me years ago. She is and has always been out of touch with this "non worker" woman.
We should not take any entertainers support of any candidate serious. How silly.
Vote with your values not vanity.

I have never really cared for Oprha, I could care less what she thinks! After her endorsement of Obama my opinon of her has droped to a all time low...not sure it could get any lower, but it might if she is also trying to hide the truth about Larry Sinclair and Obama......

Anyone who relies on Oprah (and other talk show hosts) for insight needs to get a life. Why are the results of this poll a surprise to anyone?

The thing that is really killing me about all this math talk is that there are people here (Uncle Benny is one but hardly the only one) who think they get the math but they don't.

The difference between 74% and 61% is 13 points NOT 13%. 61 is 17.57% less than 74. Which is the drop referred to in the article.

Do you people understand what percentage really means? I have my doubts.

We are interested in what PERCENT 13 is of 74!!!! Not what percent 13 is of 100! That would be easy and is, duh, 13%...and, by the way, wholly irrelevant to the discussion.


No wonder we are loosing our technical and innovative edge to other countries.

This whole math debate is incredibly disturbing. Even more so because the reason 74 to 61 is "nearly" 20% has been explained correctly, and yet there are still idiots posting "how is 13 nearly 20". Listen people, let's pretend for a minute that 200 people were surveyed, of which 148 originally supported Oprah. Then, only 122 supported Oprah. Her support dropped 17.56% from its original 148. 17.56 is nearly 20. Well, 148 is 74% of 200, and 122 is 61% of 200. So when her support when down from 148 (74%) of people to 122 (61%) of people, her support dropped nearly 20%. How hard is that to understand? Before you act self-righteous about someone else's stupidity, you really ought to make sure you're right.

LOL. I think that no matter who gets pushed into office, we're SCREWED. This is now the late, great USA, thanks to the millions of illegals, to NAFTA, and to globalism. We as regular working people, have been royally screwed by so many factions that my butt is really sore...all I have to say is, I've never watched Oprah, will never watch Oprah, and will have even less of a chance of watching Oprah now that she's supported B. Hussein Obama. Stock your ammunition; lock and load-here comes the second Civil War. Hopefully, this time the South will win!

Here's why I don't watch Oprah anymore....not because of her political views.


If anyone notices, there are only a few black women who attend Oprah's show. Most women are white, well dressed thirty, forty somethings. I don't know why she approved Obama knowing that most of her audience is white. On one show Gail mentioned something about them going to see a movie that had black actors and felt they had to support them.

I am very proud of the fact that Maya Angelou is for Hillary. I remember her great poem at Pres. Clinton's inauguration.

Has anyone thought that maybe this is due to Oprah's other views and not just political endorsement?

She used to be a pretty middle of the road person with no distinct beliefs- someone the average Middle America housewife could like.

I actually watch her some for business reasons. Over the last year or two it has gotten really nutty.

Oprah has been endorsing "new agey" cultish stuff and outright FRAUDS. She is devoting entire shows to junk like "The Secret."

And Now this "New Earth" stuff. She has weird celebrities come on and ramble pseudo-spiritual garbage.

Most people think Tom Cruise and Scientology are a cult or worse.

Now Oprah is in some cult like stuff comparable to Scientology. She promotes garbage. I imagine a lot of her viewers ( except the brainwashed ones) might be more turned off by her shows ( when they arent about new age cults, they are mostly about excrement- literally) than her support of a mainstream Democratic candidate.

Why does anyone really care who or what Oprah stands for? She's built her career and wealth supporting women and women's issues (in theory) yet when it came down to the rubber meeting the was all about race. Her previous affiliation with Rev. Wright should be a strong indicator of how she really feels about race issues and America.

She's laughing all the way to the bank.

If you feel the need to follow wisely.

As for the Math, THANK YOU MICHELLE. This explains why they push buttons with pictures at McDonalds rather than use a register. Shameful....just simple math.

As far as Oprah losing viewers, there can be many reasons involved as many here have already pointed out. I won't doubt some are pissed because she is backing Obama (She's famous - you really can't expect her to support a republican! She'd be banned from Hollywood! So, I am sure some Hillary supporters are upset with her. But her new age stuff has pissed off the Christians too. But honestly, after her experience with Wright, it really isn't shocking that she is looking elsewhere.

Throw in the Ellen factor and she is bound to take a hit!

Hokie:"...but it's got to be better than this mob rule (aka democracy)! "

The US is NOT a democracy. It is a constitutional federal republic! Hence the electoral college(and other such institutions/processes in place). There have been times where the electoral college has NOT lined up with popular vote.


You'e absolutely correct! We are on the eve of disaster in more ways than one. Banks are pulling equity lines, reducing crdit card limits, denying credit by city and or zip codes (hey...they make their money loaning money not checking and savings acounts)... can we say redlining? We have our military spread very thin all over the world, we are in a terrible position with Iraq and Iran and China owns a big portion of our country on walks in a huge race issue....wonderful.

Not lookiing good for anyone at this point.




A 13 point drop is how an unbiased journalist would present it.

Who would describe a drop from 74% to 61% as a percentage of the change in percent? To me 20% per % is less descriptive and therefore less meaningful than delta of 13%. Some of you locked-on to defending the value stated in the article are ignoring units.

Of course her favorability will drop. Any time anyone endorses someone, their popularity will drop. In this case, her main audience is women and there are a percentage of women out there that believes all women should vote for Hillary just because she's a woman and if you don't then you are anti-feminist. I'm surprised that her ratings are still that high.

Hey Lincoln:

Where was Fox even mentioned in this article? Can you point it out, or are you just find ing an excuse to bash this great network? Typical liberal...uninformed and "out there". Stick to CNN, they are more on your level.

To those who are still having a hard time understanding the 20% remark -
"Better to keep silent and have everyone think you a fool than to open your mouth (or type on your keyboard) and remove all doubt."
- A wise saying by someone smarter than me.

I believe this has more to do with her personal views on a number of fronts including Christianity and the mumbo jumbo she touts about us all being Gods...... Wacky.. she is just testing the waters of her own personal power.... people always get sucked in.

Watashi - yet another ignorant liberal making up 'facts' to support a ridiculously contrived notion.
I wonder, how did you come up with this ridiculous idea that republicans hate Oprah? While I'm not a republican I am a conservative, I'm not rich and I don't hate Oprah - I don't particularly care what she thinks nor would I watch her show, but I have no reason to hate her.
I think you, like many liberals, decided to make up your own 'facts' and present them and then sat back and patted yourself on the back for slamming those disgusting, mean ol' republicans, when in fact all you showed was ignorance.
Since, as you state, republicans are rich their wives presumably wouldn' thave to work so they're likely to make up at least part of her audience, wouldn't you say? Well, NO! Of course you wouldn't because then you'd have to contradict yourself... but then, you don't have anything but your own hate to support your story anyway.
Who again is the real 'party' of hate?

Oprah will try to win a proxy presidency thru Obama. She is technically allowed to be VP..

It seems as though entertainers who achieve success in their trade frequently lose sight of the fact that their success comes from entertaining alone. And, to maintain their fan base, they need to restrain their impulses to dispense advice about politics or religion.

Oprah, like George Clooney and a host of others, always pay the price for entering such divisive areas, yet they continue to do so. Are they so wealthy that they feel invulnerable to the inevitable financial loss, or are they so steeped in self-importance that they really believe their desperately fans need their opinions?

61 / 74 = 82 % . 100 - 82 = 18 % pretty close to 20 % drop for all you math genius obamabots

Canuck the arrogant,

We are also glad you don't live in the USA.

Oprah is paying the price, but she knows that Barack is necessary for this country to survive. Look at this example of how American's are trying to stay in their houses! Is the right-wing really so foolish as to think this woman is going to care about approval ratings when she is doing something that she knows deep down is the right thing to do?

I'm laughing at the number of people who cannot do simple grade school math-- this blog clearly shows what has become of our public school educational system!

Oprah embraces sacrifice, submission and self loathing. All prerequisites of slavery. Now Oprah wants all Americans to get on their knees and submit.

"I will not run anyone's life—nor let anyone run mine. I will not rule nor be ruled. I will not be a master nor a slave. I will not sacrifice myself to anyone—nor sacrifice anyone to myself."
- Ayn Rand

let me explain how a drop from 74% to 61% is "nearly" a 20% decrease. if you are given $74 a day and then one day you are only given $61, you have been given $13 less dollars but your income has dropped by 17.6% or "nearly" 20%. simply divide 13 by 74, and by the way you would need a 21.3% increase to get back to 74 from 61. I can show the math more clearly if you want.

I'm shocked at how many people here don't understand basic math.

The writer said that it was a rating drop from 74 to 61. While it is only a 13 POINT drop it is actually close to 20 from a PERCENTAGE standpoint which was what the author stated.

Current value 61 minus original value 74 equals -13, divide that by the original value of 74 and you get: -17.56% or NEARLY 20%. While this is still a slight embelishment by the seems that many of you need to go back to school.

At this pivotal time in our country's history, Oprah has decided to put popularity and money aside and do something she believes in, as part of the bigger picture rather than for self-interest. Do you think she really cares at this point in her life with her billions of dollars and everything she would ever need? NO!

I applaud J Woods for his comments - Pastors come and go - but the Church is eternal. Please note -- I do not give any validation to comments which are full of misspelled words. Please check your dictionary before allowing your views to become public. Having attended Democratic caucuses, I am further convinced that it is important for Obama to become the nominee. His honesty, forthrightness, compassion and wisdom in desiring negotiation is to be commended and is not forthcoming from the Clinton campaign. Who better to "bring our country together" and to act in using diplomacy instead of guns with those countries who would seem to be anti-American?

The real reason that Oprah's rating have gone down is that her audience can't handle that she has gained weight.

Obama is just like Jimmy Carter. Love your fellow man and he'll love you back. Carter still is the worst president in American history. Barack may have a chance to pass him with his "new" kind of government. And Oprah? Who cares. She's just a rich TV show host.

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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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