Why should celebrities be politically active?

Staged politics

Kathrin Kaschura

To person

M.A., born 1969; Project manager at "WEB for ALL" - project for accessibility in the Internet (Heidelberg), Sommergasse 119, 69469 Weinheim.
Email: [email protected]

How do television viewers perceive politicians' appearances in personality talks? The study presented here shows the entire spectrum of individual perception, normative evaluation and emotional impact.


Politicians want to reach as many people as possible and convince them of their political views. They have to be known if they are to be elected. To do this, they need media presence. In order to be presented as often and advantageously as possible, they are based on the selection criteria of the media and professionalize their political communication. One possible strategy of political actors to increase their attractiveness in public is to adapt to the requirements of mass media entertainment.

Conversational television programs play a special role here. In this context, Jens Tenscher speaks of "political talk shows" and describes two observable trends that influence each other: firstly, the growing range of entertainment programs, and secondly, the increasing willingness and competence of political actors to present themselves in these formats. [1] This also includes appearances in personality talks, in which politicians and other celebrities talk about personal matters and present themselves as private individuals. This format is primarily used to represent well-known personalities from various areas of society.

As a rule, the guests are asked one after the other about personal and amusing matters. [2] Due to the restrained moderation and the relaxed, friendly overall atmosphere, politicians are offered a special forum for their self-expression. The "human conversation" is in the foreground, political topics are conveyed more indirectly. [3] Political distance is part of the program. It's about gaining mass media attention for yourself. Politicians want to convey sympathy and empathy, show their personal integrity, demonstrate skills and gain trust. Politics is popularized in this way. This strategy is linked with the hope of being able to reach the broadest possible target group and people with little political interest, even in times of an increasingly fragmented audience.

The development of a professionalized policy communication, in which entertainment aspects take up more and more space, is assessed differently in the scientific discussion. From a normative-democratic-theoretical perspective, it is feared that voting decisions are mainly influenced by non-political, non-political characteristics of politicians. There is a risk that politics will no longer be conveyed in an argumentative and problem-oriented manner, but rather more emotionally and impact-centered. Proponents of this kind of policy communication, on the other hand, are of the opinion that citizens need to find out more about their elected representatives than can be inferred directly from political contexts. They assume that politically disinterested people can also be reached and activated with this type of political communication.