John Legend radio ad from the Ohio Democratic Party
Listen to the ad:
Text of the ad:
John Legend states, “The struggle for equal justice under the law never ends. This is John Legend. Now is the time to vote early in Ohio, either by mail or in person. And to make sure you vote for Jennifer Brunner, Terri Jamison, and Marilyn Zayas for the Supreme Court. They are not at the top of the ballot, but they need to be a top priority. Thank you.
A voiceover adds, “Remember to vote for Brunner, Jamison, and Zayas. Paid for by the Ohio Democratic Party.”
Who's responsible for this ad?
The ad is paid for by the Ohio Democratic Party, making “following the money” fairly simple. Contributions to all the Ohio Democratic Party’s committees and accounts are available on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website.
- Total contributions to the Ohio Democratic Party (Jan. 2021-Sept. 2, 2022): $6,334,140.12
- Total contributions to the Ohio Democratic PartyState Candidate Fund (Jan. 2021-Sept. 2, 2022): $2,059,560.42
You can also take a deeper dive. Click here for contributions to the Ohio Democratic Party.
These contributions were downloaded from the Ohio Secretary of State’s website. Column U, “Organizational Affiliation,” highlighted in yellow, was added to clearly identify the economic interests of both individual donors and Political Action Committees (PACs).
Political party and the candidate committees are required to file a Pre-General election filing on October 27.
Click here for information about campaign contribution limits.
The Brennan Center for Justice’s Buying Time project has been tracking political spending in state Supreme Court races. Click here for information about political ads and spending in the Ohio Supreme Court races this year.
Discussion and Analysis
ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION:
Celebrity ads can make a difference. In 2012, the cast of West Wing created the most well-known celebrity ad for candidate for justice and later Michigan’s Chief Justice Bridget McCormack. The ad features her sister Mary McCormack as well as Melissa Fitzgerald, Allison Janney, Joshua Malina, Janel Moloney Robert Schiff, Lily Tomlin, and Brad Whitford. Finally, it features both a “walk and talk” and Martin Sheen as President Jeb Bartlet.
Analysis from Professor Thomas Nelson from Ohio State University. Professor Nelson’s research focuses on political psychology and American politics.
Multi-talented musician, actor, entertainer, and Ohio native John Legend has endorsed Ohio Supreme Court candidates Jennifer Brunner, Terri Jamison, and Marilyn Zayas in a radio advertisement. While Legend’s celebrity status cuts across racial lines, this ad clearly appeals to Black voters. The background music is soulful, and Legend begins by saying, “The struggle for equal justice under the law never ends.” There is a well-documented suspicion of racial bias in the criminal justice system among many Blacks, and two of the three candidates are women of color.
Judicial races are low-profile, even those for the Supreme Court. Judicial candidates like to project an image of being above partisan politics, so they often don’t campaign as vigorously or as combatively as candidates for other offices. Furthermore, judicial candidates don’t often have the kind of track record or public profile that makes them memorable to voters.
In such “low information” contests, celebrity endorsements can be helpful. The psychological principle at work here is associative evaluation. Quite simply, the positive feelings people have toward the celebrity become associated with the endorsed candidate. The process is implicit, meaning that happens even without deliberate, conscious reflection.
In fact, the more you think about celebrity endorsements, the less convincing they are. Why should voters care what John Legend thinks about a judicial race? Does he possess some kind of special knowledge or insight about the race? Not really. Legend offers only the statement about justice as the motivation for his endorsement of the three candidates. None of this matters, since the endorsement appeals to the less conscious part of our brain.
Celebrities are, by definition, well-known and well-liked. They can draw a voter’s attention to a political race in a way that the candidate herself cannot. Many people are curious about what celebrities think and do. When they speak up, people listen.