Americans' Opinions Mixed On Celebrities' Impact On Giving: Poll Says Evangelicals Less Likely to be Influenced by the Famous

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Americans generally downplay the influence celebrity endorsements have on their donations to nonprofit organizations. But they also think that these endorsements are necessary to get people's attention.

Americans have a sort of love-hate relationship with celebrities who pitch nonprofit causes

Americans generally downplay the influence celebrity endorsements have on their donations to nonprofit organizations. But they also think that these endorsements are necessary to get people's attention.

Those seemingly conflicting findings come from the Compassion International Poverty Poll, a public-opinion survey conducted among a random, representative sample of 1,000 Americans 18 years of age or older. The poll was commissioned by Compassion International, a leading Christian child-sponsorship organization, and conducted by the Barna Group, a respected Christian polling organization.

The Compassion International Poverty Poll is part of the OmniPoll SM, a series of tracking studies conducted each year by Barna. This year's poll focused largely on Americans' attitudes toward celebrities and their endorsements of causes and nonprofit organizations.

"I think it is great when celebrities use their public platform to raise awareness of global poverty and motivate people to get involved," said David Dahlin, Compassion's Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. "But, surprisingly, the average American actually has more influence than people in the spotlight today. Our Poverty Poll shows that most Americans are more affected by members of their own inner circle than by celebrities when it comes to helping the poor. It reminds me of a great African proverb, 'If you think you're too small to make a difference, you've obviously never spent the night with a mosquito.' Our findings underscore the potential that each person has to influence others to take action in helping those less fortunate."

Among the poll's findings:

  • Only one out of eight donors (13 percent) listed an endorsement from a celebrity as being important in deciding what organization or cause to support in the last two years.
  • Half of Americans (51 percent) say that it is necessary for nonprofits to partner with celebrities or it would be hard to get most people's attention.
  • Half of adults (53 percent) indicated they have a hard time believing celebrities who endorse causes and nonprofit organizations.
  • Evangelicals (one percent) were less likely than the average adult to say that celebrity endorsements influenced their decisions to give.
  • One out of five adults (21 percent) said they have specifically avoided giving to a cause or organization because they did not like the celebrity who represented the organization.
  • Two-fifths of adults (38 percent) said that working with celebrities is something that Christian organizations should avoid.

In general, evangelicals, who represent 9 percent of the adult population according to Barna's criteria, exhibited the greatest degree of skepticism toward celebrities. They were more likely (53 percent) to say their giving had been influenced by a pastor or church leader. American donors overall said recommendations of friends and family (49 percent) were more influential than recommendations of pastors and church leaders (36 percent).

A substantial percentage of Americans polled preferred Christian organizations over other humanitarian groups when it comes to "really helping to change lives" (44 percent), "meeting the physical needs of the poor" (45 percent) and "being trustworthy" (40 percent). In each case, roughly 40 percent thought they were about the same and 10 percent or less preferred the other humanitarian groups.

"Americans have a sort of love-hate relationship with celebrities who pitch nonprofit causes," said David Kinnaman, president of The Barna Group. "They believe famous people help to focus people's attention - and they claim such individuals are effective at raising funds. Yet, they also hesitate to admit they are, themselves, influenced by celebrities. In fact, Americans seem to look down on their peers for being influenced by celebrities, even while most indicators suggest that adults in this country can't get enough of the opinions and lifestyles of the rich and famous."

The OmniPoll SM was conducted from July 27 to Aug. 6. The sampling error was plus or minus three percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

This is the fifth time Compassion has commissioned the Poverty Poll. Compassion is one of the world's largest Christian child-development organizations, working with more than 65 denominations and nearly 4,000 indigenous church partners in Africa, Asia, Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Since 1952, Compassion has touched the lives of more than 1.6 million children and has been recognized for its financial integrity with top ratings and recommendations by several of the nation's leading not-for-profit "watchdog" organizations.

For information, contact Compassion online at http://www.compassion.com or by calling (800) 336-7676, Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., MST.

NOTE: To schedule an interview with David Dahlin, please contact Steve Yount at (972) 267-1111 or Julie Koshy at (719) 487-6290.

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