Probably nothing in the poll, though, is more sobering for Hollywood than the large numbers of moviegoers who hold the political views of actors against them. For Republicans, 52 percent say they have avoided a movie because of the political views of its star. Among Democrats, it’s 36 percent.
Many Democrats, for example, don’t want to see movies that star Charlton Heston because he was president of the National Rifle Association. On the flip side, Sean Penn repels about 40 percent of Republicans. In March 2009, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly made news worldwide when he told THR that Penn is the only actor he refuses to buy a ticket to see because he “gives aid and comfort” to dictators. O’Reilly’s impassioned audience is 3 million a night — his feelings, one might surmise, would reverberate. (Penn’s biggest domestic box-office movie is 2003’s Mystic River, with $90.1 million; his 2010 film Fair Game, about Valerie Plame, grossed $9.5 million.)
“What causes a liberal actor to lose conservative fans has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with class,” says John Nolte, editor-in-chief of the conservative entertainment site Big Hollywood. “An actor who simply goes on about the business of acting and supporting left-wing causes usually generates nothing more than indifference from right-of-center fans and can generate respect because of how they handle themselves, especially when compared to their obnoxious counterparts.”