Where does Taylor Swift stand on the issues? The political history of the pop superstar

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Pop superstar Taylor Swift’s popularity and influence was recognized last week after she was named TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year. In the spotlight since she was 16, Swift has become one of the most recognized names and one of the best-selling artists of all time.

Like many in the spotlight, Swift has used her platform to share political opinions from time to time, earning her both praise and backlash. Even given her immense fan base and influence, she’s never able to please everybody, at times upsetting progressives for not speaking out enough, while angering some conservatives with her liberal views.

Criticized for years for being apolitical, in 2018, Swift got off the sidelines in, for her, an emphatic way. In a post to 112 million followers on Instagram, she denounced Republican Tennessee Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn and endorsed her Democratic opponent, former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, as well as Democratic House candidate Jim Cooper.

Swift’s link to a nonpartisan voter registration site gave it a major boost in traffic and new registrations, and her foray into politics made headlines.

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Taylor Swift performs during the Reputation Tour opener at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Rick Scuteri/Invision/AP)

“As much as I have in the past and would like to continue voting for women in office, I cannot support Marsha Blackburn,” Swift wrote, saying “her voting record in Congress appalls and terrifies me” on issues affecting women and the LGBT community.

Asked for comment, then-President Trump quipped he liked her music “25 percent less” after she endorsed the Democrat over the Trump-supporting Blackburn. In the end, Swift’s help wasn’t enough for Bredesen in the red state, as Blackburn went on to victory that year by double digits.

In a scene from the behind-the-scenes 2020 Netflix documentary “Miss Americana,” Swift emotionally told her parents why she planned to step into the political fray with her post against Blackburn. She also said she deeply regretted not speaking out publicly against Donald Trump when he successfully ran for president in 2016.

“It’s right and wrong at this point, and I can’t see another commercial and see her disguising these policies behind the words ‘Tennessee Christian values.’ Those aren’t Tennessee Christian values,” she said, crying. “I live in Tennessee. I am Christian. That’s not what we stand for.”

Warned in another part of the documentary that Trump could publicly come after her, Swift responded, “F– that. I don’t care.”

In 2020, Swift lit into Trump on Twitter as a poor leader on COVID-19 and accused him of trying to “blatantly cheat” to win. In another interview, she said Trump believed the U.S. was an “autocracy.”

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“Donald Trump’s ineffective leadership gravely worsened the crisis that we are in, and he is now taking advantage of it to subvert and destroy our right to vote and vote safely. Request a ballot early. Vote early,” she wrote at one point.

“We will vote you out in November,” she added in another tweet.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift slammed Senator Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., in an Instagram post announcing she was endorsing her Democratic opponent for Congress in 2018. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images// Photo by Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

Some sites previously fumed at Swift for not being outspoken enough to their liking; the left-wing Daily Beast published multiple pieces attacking her for “spineless feminism” and other perceived sins before 2018 and not being willing enough to join the parade of outspoken liberal celebrities that met their approval. 

Entertainment reporter Amy Zimmerman wrote that Swift’s endorsement of Democrats in 2018 was “shocking for those who’d interpreted her silence as an endorsement of the alt-right.”

However, the singer became increasingly more vocal about politics afterward. 

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Swift released a pro-gay anthem, “You Need to Calm Down” for her 2019 album “Lover.” The single’s music video featured prominent LGBT figures and derided anti-LGBT voices as backwards and ignorant, poking fun at internet trolls who dislike her progressivism. However, she still received some backlash from some left-wing sites who said she had appropriated the issue and wasn’t being a good ally to their cause.

“Equating online haters with the personal and societal struggle of LGBTQ+ people is, at best, tone deaf,” one Esquire scribe wrote.

Shortly before that single’s release, Swift started a petition at Change.org and urged fans to write letters to their senators, demanding they pass the Equality Act.

“Our country’s lack of protection for its own citizens ensures that LGBTQ people must live in fear that their lives could be turned upside down by an employer or landlord who is homophobic or transphobic. The fact that, legally, some people are completely at the mercy of the hatred and bigotry of others is disgusting and unacceptable,” she wrote in the petition.

At the beginning of this year’s Pride Month in June, she declared at the Chicago leg of her “Eras” tour that “this is a celebratory place” for LGBT people and praised the fans who belted out the lyrics of “Calm Down.”

“You guys are screaming those lyrics in such solidarity, in such support of one another, in such encouraging, beautiful, acceptance and peace and safety,” she said. “I wish that every place was safe and beautiful for people in the LGBTQ community.”

Taylor Swift sparkles wearing silver beaded dress

Taylor Swift at the “Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé” premiere.  (Gareth Cattermole)

After the Supreme Court overturned federal abortion rights in Roe v. Wade last year, Swift again waded into the culture wars. 

“I’m absolutely terrified that this is where we are – that after so many decades of people fighting for women’s rights to their own bodies, today’s decision has stripped us of that,” Swift wrote in a social media post the same day.

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Swift has also spoken out against gun violence after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas in 2022 and donated to gun control organizations after the shooting in Parkland, Florida in 2018.

In 2020, she wasn’t being political, but she took a shot at the left-wing Soros family that drew international attention during her highly publicized battle with her former record label.

“After I was denied the chance to purchase my music outright, my entire catalog was sold to Scooter Braun’s Ithaca Holdings in a deal that I’m told was funded by the Soros family, 23 Capital and that Carlyle Group,” Swift said in 2019. In 2020, she followed up by saying that releasing the new album was “just another case of shameless greed in the time of Coronavirus. So tasteless, but very transparent,” according to The Times of Israel.

Her exorbitant wealth from her album sales and her concert tours, including the wildly successful “Eras” tour that’s taken the world by storm this year, has drawn admiration but also some criticism of her being the ultimate capitalist. Re-recording and releasing her old albums as “Taylor’s Version” after her feud with Braun was viewed as a savvy way of not only claiming what was rightfully hers, but also adding to her coffers.

“The move isn’t just an act of revenge against someone whose actions she’s referred to publicly as ‘bullying.’ It’s a rebel stroke that cuts at the heart of the recording industry’s power over creators, and one that was only possible because Swift is songwriter on all of her original music, and because of the uniquely equitable contract she signed with her current label, Republic Records, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group. Under the terms of that contract, Swift demanded full ownership of all of her master recordings going forward, plus a royalty of at least 50%,” Jeff Yang wrote for CNN.

In the end, headlines here and there can’t take away from the fact that Swift has become a global phenomenon, and her fanbase don’t split neatly along party lines. Majorities of both self-identified Republicans and Democrats in a recent survey felt positively about her.

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Taylor Swift cheers for Travis Kelce Sunday at Chiefs game

Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce’s high-profile relationship has dominated tabloid headlines. (Getty Images)

In her recent TIME interview about being Person of the Year, Swift spoke about how she’s dealt with cancel culture over the years. She particularly went into a hole during a public dispute with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West in 2016.

“I’ve been raised up and down the flagpole of public opinion so many times in the last 20 years,” Swift said of any inclination to cancel her. “I’ve been given a tiara, then had it taken away.” Swift believes she’s been “canceled within an inch” of her “life and sanity.”

“Over the years, I’ve learned I don’t have the time or bandwidth to get pressed about things that don’t matter,” Swift said. “Yes, if I go out to dinner, there’s going to be a whole chaotic situation outside the restaurant. But I still want to go to dinner with my friends. … Life is short. Have adventures. Me locking myself away in my house for a lot of years — I’ll never get that time back. I’m more trusting now than I was six years ago.”

And she doesn’t mind making a few people online mad, given the enormous level of fame and popularity she’s achieved. When she was asked by TIME about her high-profile relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, the feverish coverage of which has rankled some NFL fans, she had an acidic response.

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“I’m just there to support Travis,” she said. “I have no awareness of if I’m being shown too much and pissing off a few dads, Brads and Chads.” 

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