×

Ellen DeGeneres Influenced Gay Rights Views More Than Any Other Celebrity (Study)

Ellen DeGeneres did more to influence Americans’ attitudes about gay rights than any other celebrity or public figure, a new poll by Variety and branding expert Jeetendr Sehdev found.

The daytime host wasn’t the only person who played a key role in shaping hearts and minds. President Barack Obama, who endorsed same-sex marriage during his 2012 re-election bid after initially opposing it, was the second most cited figure, followed by openly gay “Glee” star Jane Lynch and openly gay comedian Rosie O’Donnell. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the fifth most influential voice on gay rights, the study found. Like Obama, Clinton initially opposed gay marriage before changing her views two years ago.

The results were calculated from a nationwide survey of 2,000 adults between the ages of 18 and 65. Polling was based on a combination of online studies and one-on-one interviews. The study was conducted as part of Variety‘s recent issue examining Hollywood’s role in the gay rights fight and its impact on the Supreme Court’s decision last week legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

DeGeneres first made waves in 1997 when she came out as gay on the cover of Time and on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Art imitated life, as DeGeneres’ character on her ABC sitcom “Ellen” also came out of the closet. There was a backlash, however. “Ellen” was cancelled due to falling ratings in 1998 and the comedian didn’t regain her professional stride until her talk show launched in 2003.

DeGeneres declined to be interviewed for the special Variety issue, but in a 2014 People piece she admitted she was shocked by the response.

“I thought everyone knew me and I didn’t think that one little adjective was going to define me,” she said, adding, “Now I look at it as a movie that I saw that someone went through, and I only experience the amazing life that I have right now.”

Respondents also cited a number of television shows with gay or lesbian characters as being a critical factor in altering their views. DeGeneres’ daytime show was the most frequently cited, followed by “Modern Family” and “The Fosters.” “Modern Family” features a gay couple, played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet, who is raising an adopted daughter. “The Fosters” centers on an interracial lesbian couple, played by Teri Polo and Sherri Saum, who are bringing up a mix of biological and adopted children.

Gay performers, advocates and shows with homosexual characters were only one factor in shifting attitudes, the study found. Thirty-eight percent of those surveyed cited gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender characters as the key influence in their beliefs, while a leading 84% referenced knowing someone who is out of the closet. Seventy-eight percent referenced prominent gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender figures as being a major influence, while 80% cited the role that straight supporters of gay rights have had in making them more comfortable.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Atmosphere71st Primetime Emmy Awards Nominations Announcement,

    How to Watch the 2019 Emmy Awards Online

    The 71st Primetime Emmy Awards won’t be one to miss. Whether you’re a “Killing Eve” fan eager to see co-stars Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer face off in the same category, a “Veep” enthusiast excited to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus potentially nab the honor of most Emmy wins of any performer in history, or a “Game [...]

  • Actor Aron Eisenberg during the Creation

    'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' Actor Aron Eisenberg Dies at 50

    “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” actor Aron Eisenberg, who played Nog in the 1990s series, died Saturday. He was 50. His character Nog, who appeared for all seven seasons, was a member of the alien race Ferengi, and joined Starfleet after a recommendation from Captain Sisko. Eisenberg returned for a guest spot on “Star Trek: [...]

  • ALL RISE -- A drama that

    TV Review: 'All Rise' Starring Simone Missick

    Finding a new way to do a legal procedural is such a difficult prospect at this point that it would be hard to blame TV for giving up entirely and just going on autopilot. “All Rise,” however, both indulges the basics of the genre and finds some refreshing ways to twist them into slightly new, [...]

  • An Emmy statue stands outside the

    Expect High Heat and Traffic for Emmys Sunday

    If you work in TV, are a fan of TV, or are in fact a TV yourself, the 71st Primetime Emmys promise to be a treat. Television’s biggest awards show takes place in Los Angeles on Sunday night, with some of Hollywood’s brightest stars set to appear as the entertainment community honors the best of [...]

  • Roma Cinematography

    'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' and 'Roma' Win LMGI Awards for Motion Pictures

    Two major 2018 releases – actioner “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and critics’ darling “Roma” – were honored for film location work by the Location Managers Guild International at a ceremony this evening at the Eli & Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The 6th Annual LMGI Awards also recognized “Chernobyl” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” [...]

  • Viacom Channels Grab 'Seinfeld' Cable Rerun

    Viacom Channels Grab 'Seinfeld' Cable Rerun Rights

    Viacom has sealed a deal with Sony Pictures Television for the cable rights to “Seinfeld” starting in October 2021. The deal comes on the heels of a blockbuster new deal between Sony and Netflix for the streaming rights to the beloved NBC sitcom that also begins in 2021. “Seinfeld” reruns have been a staple of [...]

  • Soho House

    Soho House Lands In Downtown Los Angeles

    Warner Music, Spotify and Lyft are poised to welcome a new neighbor to downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District with Soho Warehouse, the third California outpost of the Hollywood-loved members-only club — and the largest North American opening to date. Hot on the heels of the Soho House Hong Kong debut earlier this summer, the private [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content