Caitlyn Jenner has had a turbulent relationship with the LGBTQ community, but a new study found that her story can help older and conservative people less transphobic.
A new paper published in American Politics Research by researchers at the University of Kansas is based on a survey of 1400 people who followed news of Jenner’s transition in 2015.
The researchers found that older transphobic people were less likely to say that Jenner’s transition was a sign of “negative social trends” than younger transphobic people.
And older transphobic people were more likely to support pro-transgender policies if they saw her story in a positive light, which means that even people who hold transphobic views were still willing to support pro-trans policies because of her story.
Associate Professor of Political Science Patrick Miller said that age probably played a role because older people were more likely to think of Jenner as an Olympic gold medalist and an American hero, unlike younger people are more likely to recognize her from reality TV. Her support for Donald Trump in the 2016 election might have also made older conservatives like her more.
“What’s interesting about the Jenner case is the people who she seemed to influence are the older, more conservative type — those who probably became vested in her back when she was [deadname] Jenner competing in the Olympics and appearing on Wheaties boxes,” Miller said.
“She didn’t appear to have any effect on the younger people who might have been more attuned to Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”
Miller is interested in how celebrities affect politics in general, and he was using Jenner’s story as a case study. While politicians love to get celebrity endorsements, Miller said that there hasn’t been much academic study about whether they’re really helpful.
This case study would support the idea that respected celebrities can actually sway public opinion.