Can Exposure to Celebrities Reduce Prejudice? The Effect of Mohamed Salah on Islamophobic Behaviors and Attitudes
By: Ala Alrababah, William Marble, Salma Mousa, Alexandra Siegel
Abstract: Can exposure to celebrities from a stigmatized group reduce prejudice toward that group writ large? We estimate the causal effect of Mohammed Salah—a visibly Muslim soccer player— joining Liverpool Football Club on Islamophobia, using hate crime reports throughout England, 15 million tweets from British soccer fans, and a survey experiment of Liverpool F.C. fans. We find that hate crimes in Merseyside (home to Liverpool F.C.) dropped by 16% compared to a synthetic control, and Liverpool F.C. fans halved their rates of posting anti-Muslim tweets relative to fans of other top-flight clubs. Our survey experiment suggests that the salience of Salah’s Muslim identity enabled positive feelings toward Salah to generalize to Muslims more broadly. Providing real- world behavioral measures of prejudice reduction and experimental evidence from a naturalistic setting, our findings provide support for the parasocial contact hypothesis, indicating that positive exposure to outgroup celebrities can reduce prejudice.