Taylor Swift is a kind of shining light in the USA. The 34-year-old singer not only moves music charts, award ceremonies, the entertainment scene and recently the football world, but also the country's economy - and now even the presidential election campaign. Excited debates revolve around whether the pop star could support Democrat Joe Biden again, as he did in 2020. And with what effect.
The 81-year-old, who wants to run for a second term in the presidential election at the beginning of November, could more than use a boost with a little pop and glamour. The enthusiasm for a candidate who is well into his senior years is limited, even within his own party. Biden's popularity ratings are lousy. And the incumbent has recently lost a lot of support, especially among younger people. Could Taylor Swift, with her millions upon millions of younger fans, be his salvation?
The Taylor Swift phenomenon
The 34-year-old produces one hit after another. She regularly breaks records at award ceremonies - on Sunday evening she won her fourth Grammy for her record "Midnights". Swift has enormous influence among her fans and has around 279 million followers on the Instagram platform (Biden has fewer than 20 million there). Swift recently landed in fifth place on Forbes' list of the world's most influential women. In 2023, Time magazine named her Person of the Year.
This person is not only an artist, but also a businesswoman: Swift's personal fortune is estimated at over a billion US dollars. Her concerts had such economic importance for the venues that the Federal Reserve of Philadelphia mentioned Taylor Swift in an economic report.
When Ticketmaster's website collapsed due to demand for her world tour, it led to questions about monopolistic control in the US Congress. And because the ground shook disproportionately during one of their performances in Seattle, seismologists compared it to a mini-earthquake. Taylor Swift's influence is so significant that USA Today recently hired a reporter to focus exclusively on the singer.
The huge fan base
Swifties - that's how their fans describe themselves - are considered extremely loyal, and not just in the USA. In Argentina's capital Buenos Aires, some of them waited in tents in front of the stadium for months so that they could be in the front row. About 53 percent of U.S. adults said they were Swift fans in a survey published in 2023. Like the artist herself, most of her fans in the US come from suburbs or live in rural areas. About half are female and millennials - so, like Swift, they were born between 1981 and 1996. Around three quarters are white.
Swift is approachable and is considered friendly. The image of the girl next door still sticks with her even as a grown woman. At the same time, she defends herself against an image of women in pop culture that she finds harmful. The 2020 Netflix documentary about Swift is called “Miss Americana.” Swift, according to the subtext, is as much a part of America as apple pie, Coca-Cola, cowboy boots and cheerleading. The fact that her current boyfriend is now also the football player Travis Kelce seems to some to be an almost suspicious completion of this cliché. The relationship between the two has recently received a lot of attention, also because Swift was present at Kelce's team's games and then all eyes were on her.
After his football team qualified for the Super Bowl, wild conspiracy theories about Swift recently gained momentum in right-wing circles. Republicans fear that she could use her as yet unconfirmed presence at the sporting event of the year in a few days to campaign for Biden.
The pop star and politics
For years, Swift carefully avoided taking a political stand. But in 2018 she caused a stir when she positioned herself in Tennessee against the ultra-radical candidate for the US Senate, Marsha Blackburn. Then-Republican President Donald Trump jumped to Blackburn's defense, saying he now liked Swift's music "about 25 percent less." Although Blackburn won the vote, election observers noted a significant increase in young voter registration following Swift's comments.
Since then, Swift has repeatedly taken a political stance and urged her fans to vote. With success. After one such call from Swift on Instagram last September alone, 35,000 new voter registrations were counted in a very short time. California's Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, gushed afterwards that Swift was "unique" and that her influence on young voters was "extremely strong."
Biden's campaign team is also interested in this. The New York Times recently reported that Biden's team has begun talking to celebrities and influencers about possible support for the president on social media and is actively seeking Swift's support.
She had already backed Biden once in 2020. At that time, she spoke out for the Democrat relatively late in the election year. Biden also received a lot of support from other celebrities in that election. A whole host of megastars performed at his inauguration, including Lady Gaga and Bruce Springsteen - while Trump had struggled to find any artists for his swearing-in four years earlier. This time too, Biden is likely to receive a lot of support from stars, artists, actors and other celebrities in the election campaign - unlike his expected opponent Trump, who also wants to run again.
The President's Problems
But Biden's need for some glitz, glitter and pizzazz is also greater now than ever. In this election campaign he is four years older and has passed 80. His age is a constant topic in the election campaign - regular slips of the tongue, missteps and small missteps at public events offer a lot of political attack. The president, who sometimes appears unsteady on his legs, makes headlines with his "stiff gait" and orthopedic insoles, and whose political career began in a world with rotary telephones and no Internet, sometimes seems far removed from the reality of life for young people in the country.
According to surveys, Biden has recently lost support among younger people due to his course in the Middle East crisis. And his approval ratings among the population have been languishing at under 40 percent for some time - even worse than Trump's at the same time in his term of office. In a scenario where polls are predicting a close race for a possible rematch between Biden and Trump, the president could only use Taylor Swift's fans on his side.
In order to woo the pop star and her followers, Biden will also have to do his own homework. During an appearance at the White House last November, the president attempted a joke and managed to confuse Taylor Swift with two other singers within a few seconds: Beyoncé and Britney Spears.