Discussion paper

DP17648 From Apprentice to President? Entertainment TV and US Elections

This paper studies whether Donald Trump's role as host of the popular TV show "The Apprentice" increased his vote share in the 2016 and 2020 elections. We find a positive correlation between TV ratings of The Apprentice and the county-level Republican vote share, but this correlation vanishes once we control for pre-existing voting and NBC viewership patterns. This null effect is robust to different model specifications, measures of exposure to The Apprentice, and an extensive investigation of heterogeneous effects. Viewership of The Apprentice is also unrelated to Congressional election results and support for Trump in survey data or the Republican primaries.


Müller, K and C Schwarz (2022), ‘DP17648 From Apprentice to President? Entertainment TV and US Elections‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 17648. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp17648