Trump risks backlash as MAGA world zeroes in on Taylor Swift

Former President Trump’s supporters are going after Taylor Swift amid chatter about whether the superstar could wade into the 2024 election with a coveted endorsement for President Biden.

Conservatives in both traditional media and social media have been launching conspiracy theories against the pop superstar, something that ramped up after The New York Times reported that the Biden campaign was actively hoping for her endorsement.

Trump, who is usually not shy about speaking his opinion, so far has stayed out of the fray, though Rolling Stone reported this week that the former president’s allies are pledging a “holy war” against Swift, especially if she sides with Democrats in November. 

Vivek Ramaswamy, a former presidential candidate who has thrown his support behind Trump, is perhaps the most high-profile Republican to go after the singer so far, stoking theories that the NFL is rigging football games for Swift’s Kansas City beau as Democrats look for her endorsement.

“I wonder who’s going to win the Super Bowl next month,” Ramaswamy wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “And I wonder if there’s a major presidential endorsement coming from an artificially culturally propped-up couple this fall.”

But other people in the broader MAGA world have also been weighing in, including fringe figures such as Laura Loomer and Jack Lombardi, as well as more mainstream personalities such as Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, who warned Swift not to “get involved in politics.”

An attack on Swift would carry significant risks for Trump, given his existing vulnerabilities with women and young people.

“Waging a war on Taylor Swift is certainly not a way to win over the young voters and women that they’ve been hemorrhaging because of their stance on so many issues and the people, the abusive men that they’ve elevated into positions of power,” said Kaivan Shroff, press secretary for the Gen-Z progressive group Dream for America. 

Just this week, a poll from Quinnipiac University underscored Trump’s weaknesses with women, who make up a large part of Swift’s fanbase. The survey found Biden opening up a 6-point lead over the former president amid growing signs of a gender divide, with 58 percent of women saying they support the incumbent.

That poll has only amped up fears that Trump’s unpopularity with women could cost him in what is expected to be a close election. He has long been accused of sexism and recently sparked criticism for his attacks on primary rival Nikki Haley in the wake of his victory in New Hampshire.

Meanwhile, Biden has faced his own sagging poll numbers with young voters, who have criticized the president for his age and his handling of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. That has raised hopes among Republicans that they could peel off a significant portion of that demographic in November — though Trump also faces challenges with them. A recent Economist/YouGov survey found that voters under 30 would overwhelmingly support Biden over him in November.

The pivotal role young voters are expected to play in November was underscored this week when the Times reported that Biden allies were hoping to clinch Swift’s endorsement. According to a Pew Research breakdown from early last year, Gen-Z adults and Millennials make up more than half of Swift’s fanbase, which is also majority women.

“That will be a tsunami that will be very difficult to thwart,” said conservative activist Charlie Kirk of a potential Swift endorsement of Biden, according to Semafor reporter Dave Weigel. “We better be prepared. It seems as though things are aligning for that.”

In response to the conservative fury over the singer, former Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), one of Trump’s most vocal Republican critics, called Swift “a national treasure” on X.

The singer has not signaled yet what role she will play, if any, in the 2024 election. But she has been vocal about encouraging her fanbase to register to vote, prompting more than 35,000 to sign up at last fall. She also endorsed Democrats in the 2018 midterms and supported the Biden-Harris ticket in 2020. 

While it’s difficult to gauge how much influence Swift would have on young voters in November, some data suggests she could tip the scales.

A fall 2023 survey from the Harvard Institute of Politics found 19 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds said they’d be more likely to vote if they “received a personalized phone call or text message from Taylor Swift encouraging you to vote.” 

And polling conducted for Newsweek this week found that 18 percent of voters reported they’d be “more likely” or “significantly more likely” to vote for a Swift-backed candidate. 

“I definitely think that Republicans are making a mistake focusing all their energy on criticizing Taylor Swift,” said Victoria Hammett, deputy executive director of Gen-Z for Change.

“Republicans struggle to reach young voters because of their policy, but then further alienate themselves from that voting bloc through frivolous attacks on people like Taylor Swift,” Hammett said. 

Swift, who kept away from politics for much of her career, broke her silence in 2018 when she backed former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) against then-Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) for Senate.

It was the singer’s first major foray into elections, and a video clip released later showed Swift saying she regretted not speaking up in the 2016 presidential race. 

“I cannot vote for someone who will not be willing to fight for dignity for ALL Americans, no matter their skin color, gender or who they love,” Swift said of Blackburn in a 2018 Instagram post.

She added a plea for her fanbase to “please, please educate yourself on the candidates running in your state and vote based on who most closely represents your values.”

The “Miss Americana” star has since linked herself to LGBTQ activists, urged fans to sign a petition supporting the Equality Act, spoken out against the Supreme Court’s move to overturn Roe v. Wade and openly opposed Trump.

She’s also been tied inadvertently to some top issues — like the antitrust questions surrounding Ticketmaster and AI abuse concerns about explicit deepfakes circulated in recent weeks.  

“Top issues right now for young people: economy, environment, abortion rights, gun violence prevention,” said Marianna Pecora, communications director for the Gen Z-led nonprofit Voters of Tomorrow. “And Taylor Swift is someone that’s championed a lot of those issues in one way or another over the course of her time in stardom.”  

But young voters also pushed back against the idea that they’d base their presidential pick solely off of what the singer encouraged.

“We are not a party-driven generation,” Pecora said. “We are an issue-driven generation. And I don’t think Taylor Swift endorsement would change that.”

Shroff said younger voters “care about their issues much more than what Taylor Swift tells them to do.” 

Notably, Bredesen lost to Blackburn in the 2018 Tennessee Senate race, despite Swift’s backing. 

Abby Kiesa, deputy director of the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University, pointed to the Harvard polling, noting it’s “not a small number” who say they’d be more likely to go with a Swift endorsee. But she also argued that “sometimes people have an outsized understanding of just how instrumental celebrities can be.”  

David Jackson, a professor at Bowling Green State University who has researched the effects of celebrity endorsements, said Swift’s current popularity “transcends” that of many of her A-lister counterparts, making it hard to estimate how influential an endorsement would be.

Jackson said Republicans’ attacks against Swift indicate they’re trying to “muddy her up” before an endorsement they think is coming, but he pointed out that GOP front-runner Trump was also a celebrity who jumped into the political arena. 

“The Republicans are in a bit of a bind, because they have a celebrity candidate themselves, who undercut severely Republicans’ credibility when it came to making the argument that celebrities should stay out of politics,” Jackson said.

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