Pundits and commentators often pander to specific political beliefs or interest groups, banking on the idea that support from like-minded fans will out-power naysayers and critics. But a new poll released by survey research technology company Morning Consult indicates that the most polarizing celebrity isn't a talking head on any news or comedy channel — it's Beyoncé.
The results are based on a poll that asked respondents how they felt about various entertainers on the Forbes 100 list of the world’s highest-paid entertainers, Morning Consult said in a description of its findings. The data was logged based on the political party of each person who answered. Those with the largest gaps in favorability were ranked higher on the polarization scale. By and large, senior reporter Joanna Piacenza wrote, Morning Consult found that "vocal black celebrities, advocates for the LGBT community, and white conservative pundits" were the most divisive figures.
Indeed, the majority of the people on the list are people of color. Jay-Z is there, as is LeBron James, Nas, Dave Chappelle, Kendrick Lamar, and The Weeknd, to name a few. Beyoncé, who seldom shares specific political opinions, is the first POC on the list; James is the second — separating them in order of rank are Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Ellen DeGeneres. Almost two-thirds of the 25 people on the published Morning Consult list were people of color.
A spokesperson for Morning Consult tells Bustle that it could not get someone to immediately comment on why the majority of people on the list are POC, or whether this was taken into consideration during data collection and analysis. They said they "simply pulled the Forbes 100 list and gauged their favorability among Americans then looked at political subgroups. Whether or not celebrities had voiced opinions on political issues didn't really come into play, as this was just favorability by political party."
In a statement to Bustle, Anne F. Mattina, professor and chair of the Communications Department at Stonehill College, says, simply, "that mainstream media narratives are often built on stereotypes."
"People of color who assert their own self-worth are frequently framed negatively," she says. "See, for example, the response to Serena Williams repeated requests to be treated fairly and with respect during the US Open final after being penalized for her coach's behavior. Her actions were labeled as an 'outburst', or a 'meltdown' while she was called 'defiant' and 'spoiled.'"
As Mattina points out, there are likely a lot of factors at play here on an individual respondent level. These likely include the prevalence of internalized racism, varying forms of representation, and, in some cases, flat-out bias. While there may not be a single, specific cause for two-thirds of the most polarizing entertainers being POC, the results do suggest a very troubling pattern among members of the entertainment industry's audience.
The published data, alone, does not prove bias. It does, however, suggest that just because viewers may be taking in an increasingly diversified entertainment industry doesn't mean that prejudices and stereotypes don't persist.