Vibrant TV personality, media magnate, award-winning actress, and global philanthropist: These are just some of the hats Oprah has worn throughout an acclaimed career. But could another title soon be bestowed upon the unparalleled "Lady O."? Try President Winfrey on for size, people.
The week following a celebrated speech at the 2018 Golden Globes, Oprah became the subject of widespread political whisperings.
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) January 9, 2018
Some reports suggested she'd been considering a 2020 run for months, urged on by supporters and prospective donors. Meanwhile, close friend Gayle King did little to quiet the candidacy rumors, saying Oprah was "intrigued" by the prospect.
It's not hard to see the Oprah appeal for the Democratic base in the age of Trump: Could one indomitable TV personality unseat another? The president himself dismissed her chances ("Yeah, I'll beat Oprah.") – but should he?
We measured Oprah's odds with the audience that really matters: the American public. Surveying 987 individuals, we asked for their thoughts about an Oprah run and her chances of success. Roughly 40 percent of our participants had seen her Golden Globe speech, and all weighed in on her potential strengths and weaknesses in office.
Ready to see how she would fare if she did mount a 2020 campaign? Read on to find out.
Oprah and Her O-pponents
You can't assess a candidate's chances in isolation: Her opponent is an essential consideration. If she does seek the Democratic nomination in 2020, Oprah will almost certainly find herself pitted against President Trump in the general election.
In that case, just 40 percent of respondents say the sitting president would win: A shocking finding in light of the incumbency advantage Trump enjoys. Of course, Republicans were least likely to share this view, with 63 percent stating Trump would prevail. Independents and Libertarians were more divided, though the prospect of President Winfrey won the slight majority.
If any consolation can be found for the president, it's that his old foe Hillary Clinton fared worse against Oprah than he did. In this theoretical clash between two of the world's most powerful women, Clinton was deemed less likely to win across the political spectrum – including by Democrats.
Her Odds of Taking Office
In a finding that will surely enthuse her supporters, the plurality of the crowd thought Oprah would win if she did indeed run.Though more than a quarter of participants were unsure, 42.3 percent said she'd earn election – whereas just 30.7 percent said she wouldn't.
Perhaps Trump's unpredicted win has made us all more aware that anything is possible in politics, but the president's party was largely skeptical about her chances. Forty-one percent of Republicans said she was unlikely to succeed, a more grim assessment than that of any other group.
Conversely, a majority of Democrats thought she would be elected if she ran – optimism that might come in handy in defeating primary challengers. Some party loyalists have already declared that she has a real shot, should she choose to accept the candidate's mantle.
Yet, at least 20 percent of every political affiliation said they were unsure if she'd capture the presidency if she tried. Perhaps they're waiting for more information or have simply retired from making predictions after the 2016 campaign.
Will She or Won't She?
Regarding a presidential run, is Oprah flirting or firmly interested? According to most of our respondents, she's unlikely to really attempt it. Yet more than 1 in 5 people said she probably would, and a similar number were unsure, so public opinion is far from uniform.
Interestingly, our respondents tended to assess the chances of her run along partisan lines.Nearly 3 in 10 Democrats said she'd throw her hat in the ring, while just 18.3 percent of Republicans felt she was likely to do so.
When asked if they would actually vote for her, these party lines roughly held firm – the apparent assumption being that she'd champion liberal causes as president. Similarly, Libertarians were nearly as unlikely to support her should her name appear on the ballot.
Unfortunately for Oprah and her backers, however, independents were largely averse to her, with just under 30 percent saying they'd give her their vote. Perhaps the opinions of this swing group account for the discouraging total overall: 49.4 percent of voters said they were unlikely to vote for her, while just 39.9 percent said they likely would.
All that could change if the right running mate supplied some additional star power, however: Joe Biden and Michelle Obama were top vice presidential picks among those with an opinion.
President Winfrey's Weaknesses?
Though our data show mixed views on a potential presidency for Oprah, the vast majority predicted she'd handle certain aspects of the job quite well. She got particularly high marks for her perceived ability to serve the needs of specific communities, a hallmark of her philanthropy to date.
In terms of her ability to represent the interests of minorities in America, 89.3 percent said she'd perform well. A slightly greater number thought she'd succeed in speaking up for women – and even Ivanka Trump seems to recognize her talents for doing so. Additionally, 85.7 percent said Winfrey would handle LGBTQ concerns with poise.
The crowd demonstrated more modest confidence in her potential handling of educational policy and healthcare. Just 69 percent said she'd do well with America's schooling concerns, and only 56.1 percent thought she would handle health care properly. These findings might irk Oprah, whose charitable efforts extend to these realms as well.
She'd most certainly be offended by her ratings for global conflicts, foreign affairs, and economic issues. In these three areas, the majority of participants thought she'd perform poorly despite her humanitarian work domestically and abroad.
If Not Her, Then Who?
Though Oprah's dalliance with America's highest office has attracted great attention, she's actually one of several celebrities mentioned in connection with the pursuit of the presidency.
The most obvious has won it once already: Donald Trump. Nearly 14 percent said they'd prefer him to run again rather than see an Oprah candidacy. But 16 percent preferred to see Oprah run over any other celebrity above – including the current president.
While certain corners of the internet have urged Tom Hanks to serve as Oprah's running mate, 8.9 percent said they'd prefer him in the leading role instead. A similar percentage preferred Mark Cuban of "Shark Tank" fame – perhaps due to his record of trolling Trump and teasing his would-be policies in the past.
Eight percent of participants said they'd rather see Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson run, which the strapping star has said he's pondering seriously. From there, a host of other celebs earned small portions of the vote, with Roseanne Barr ranking last. The sitcom legend voiced plenty of self-confidence recently, however, declaring she'd be a better fit than either Oprah or Trump for the job.
Our data show Americans' opinion of an Oprah run range from devoted to dismissive, with plenty of middle ground between. Yet, in some respects, the fact that her potential candidacy provokes such divergent views is an accomplishment itself. A fair share of the public takes her chances seriously. Whether that makes them feel anxious or excited is another matter altogether.
Despite all the present speculation, it's important to remember there's a long way to go until Election Day 2020. We have time to consider our choices and allow the candidates we ultimately choose to earn our support. Until then, one thing's for certain: It's sure to be a wild ride.
We collected 987 participants who were at least 18 years old from Amazon's Mechanical Turk. The demographic breakdowns of the respondents are as follows:
- 53.7% were women
- 46.0% were men
- 0.3% were a gender not listed
- 18–24: 9.0%
- 25–34: 42.2%
- 35–44: 27.3%
- 45–54: 13.3%
- 55–64: 7.8%
- 65 and older: 1.4%
- Political Affiliation
- Democrat: 46.5%
- Green: 1.42%
- Independent: 26.4%
- Libertarian: 4.1%
- Republican: 20.4%
- Not Listed: 1.2%
For the purpose of our breakdowns, we limited political affiliation to only Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and Libertarians. The smallest group, Libertarians, was comprised of 39 respondents.
We weighed the data to the 2010 U.S. census for age and gender.
For the measurement of likelihood, respondents were presented a 7-point scale with 1 being very unlikely, 4 being neutral or unsure, and 7 being very likely. For the purposes of interpreting our data, we combined the first three anchors to be labeled as "Unlikely," left the midpoint and labeled it as "Neutral" or "Unsure," and combined the remainder as "Likely."
Participants ranged in age from 18 to 81 with a mean of 36.9 and a standard deviation of 10.9.
We did not run any statistical testing on this project, therefore the results are for entertainment purposes only and should be interpreted as such.
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