The celebrity who did more than any other public figure to influence the attitudes of Americans on gay rights was daytime host Ellen DeGeneres, according to a new study by Variety and branding expert Jeetendr Sehdev.
“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,” Variety reports. “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 study, part of Variety’s examination of the role of Hollywood in the gay rights issue, surveyed 2,000 people ages 18 to 65.
Variety notes: “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 canceled due to falling ratings in 1998 and the comedian didn’t regain her professional stride until her talk show launched in 2003.”
Survey respondents also cited TV shows with gay characters as a factor in changing their attitudes. Variety reports that DeGeneres’ talk show was cited the most, followed by “Modern Family” and “The Fosters.”