Was Elvis Presley a Democrat or Republican? What about his fans today?
The real answer is that the King of Rock and Roll was both. Elvis fans in America and around the world are of all political, religious, cultural persuasions.
Like it or not, in light of the recent criminal defacement of the Graceland Wall, Elvis Presley’s name has been the subject of countless political conversations over the decades, but especially now.
But politics aside for a moment, many fans have found renewed comfort in his music. The chaotic world and pandemic of 2020 has provided an avenue of escape for, and in, the hearts and minds of millions.
Elvis Presley Enterprises, as with just about every business, has been making sacrifices and changes to navigate through the COVID-19 crisis and restrictions. This included shutting down tours and events, layoffs, reductions in executives pay and even one owner not taking any pay at all.
The Elvis world and Memphis tourism were particularly excited when Graceland reopened, with reduced and limited touring offers.
In late June, my wife and I stayed at the Guesthouse at Graceland while being among the first to visit Graceland, the Elvis Memphis and museum complex, Sun Studio and other Memphis venues. We saw hope and excitement returning.
The Graceland tours were limited to about 10 people at a time instead of their normal 40 to 50 during peak seasons.
Although the Civil Rights Museum and much of Beale Street remained closed, restaurants like Marlowe’s (close to Graceland) and Corky’s BBQ were back in business. It was promising.
The Birthplace of Elvis in Tupelo was also welcoming, but much of the city was still struggling with reopening. Residence and business owners we talked to were concerned about local city leadership response.
We found the face of large Elvis statue on the square in front of City Hall wrapped in a mask, much to the disappointment of fans who traveled far and wide to see it.
Even the annual celebrations of Elvis Week back in Memphis during mid-August were limited, with much of it regulated to virtual participation.
Then it happened. In the early morning hours of September 1, 2020 the front wall of Graceland was defaced by spray painted graffiti and tags supporting the “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) and “Defund the Police” causes.
In my 46 years of investigative reporting, writing and blogging, I’ve had the greatest honor of meeting Elvis and interviewing him. I’ve been blessed to meet some of his family, staff, Memphis Mafia members, close friends (childhood and beyond), girlfriends and others who knew him.
When interviewing music stars like B.B. King, Merle Haggard, Kenny Rogers, Chubby Checker, Fats Domino and Justin Timberlake, I always ask about Elvis.
It was the same with people like Eddie Murphy, Clint Eastwood, John Wilkerson (Elvis’ guitarist in the ’70s) and even John Lennon’s girlfriend May Pang.
I’ve remained a loyal fan and an ambassador for Elvis going back into the 1960s. My biggest rewards have been knowing, corresponding with and meeting thousands of fans around the globe. I’ve met Elvis fans in Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, Mexico and Canada. I’m still in touch with surviving fellow fans, and even the children of those who have passed, that I’ve met in Memphis, LA, Las Vegas, at many Elvis concerts in the ’70s, and scores of Elvis festivals and Elvis Tribute Artist shows.
My point is, throughout the years the subject of Elvis and politics has come up often. It is not a taboo subject (although a few might think it is). My intent, by polling thousands of fans, was to gain more insight and effect the recent defacement of Graceland has on fans and their preferences on the 2020 presidential election.
Before I give the results, I have something to say about Elvis’s political preferences. I’ve researched, interviewed and written about it many times. I’m naturally curious and pay attention to what his fans think.
In public, he was wise enough to not say much. Many of today’s celebrities could learn a thing or two from Elvis Presley.
One of the most familiar video clips of an Elvis news conference was on
June 9, 1972. Elvis was sitting with his father Vernon Presley to talk about his upcoming Madison Square Garden concerts in New York.
He was asked a question concerning the Vietnam War.
Question: “You were in the Army and were drafted. What is your opinion of war protesters? And would you today refuse to be drafted?”
Elvis: “Honey, I’d just soon to keep my own personal views about that to myself? Cause I’m just an entertainer and I’d rather not say.”
Privately, especially as he matured and read more became more focused on politics and current events. (He was way too busy and on the road constantly trying to build a career in the first years. Plus, for those of us who know about what McCarthyism did to Hollywood and entertainment careers, you understand why he said little publically).
What is critical to understand is that his parents, Vernon and Gladys Presley started out as conservative Southern Democrats. They supported Stevenson over Eisenhower and Kennedy over Nixon.
Elvis went into the Army in 1958 and had two years to read, grow and formulate his own opinions. He loved President John F. Kennedy and was devastated about his assassination.
Like many, he supported Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson was the first president he met. He was along the lines of many Southern Democrats at the time. But things evolved.
Ronald Reagan and so many others, including my own parents through time, noticed the Democratic party changing. They switched and so did
Memphis Mafia’s Marty Lacker told me Elvis was “usually supportive of whoever was president at the time. He was loyal and patriotic to America. It was an America First attitude with Elvis, like most of us.”
“Hey, we owned guns,” he continued. “Everyone knows Elvis loved his guns. And his badges. He loved his guns and badges and was always respectful with police. He had police friends everywhere.”
Lacker passed away a few years ago, but he told the same story as others. Elvis was a strong believer in the Second Amendment and gun rights. He respected and supported police and law enforcement.
“Elvis was very private about his political views, but was passionate about them in private with those of us and friends he could trust,” Sonny West said.
It’s interesting that West and Elvis’ most liberal Memphis Mafia member Jerry Schiling went with their friend and boss to visit Richard Nixon in the White House Oval Office on December 21, 1971.
“Elvis didn’t write many letters himself, but one of his most famous is the one he wrote on airline stationary to the President when we were on our way to see him (Nixon). He liked Nixon and was loyal, but after Watergate, he felt letdown.”
Early in that letter, Elvis wrote “I talked to Vice-President Agnew in Palm Springs 3 weeks ago and expressed my concern for our country. The drug culture, the hippie elements, the SDS, Black Panthers, etc. … ”
“He liked President Carter too,” West said. “He was some kind of distant cousin to him and he even met him and Roslyn once. But he didn’t vote for him. He was a Reagan man by then. War and college protests and the way our soldiers were treated when they came home from Vietnam angered him.”
Schilling and Lacker both leaned liberal but by all accounts, even their own, they admitted Elvis was definitely conservative in the 1970s.
Elvis met future president George H. W. Bush at an awards ceremony in the early 1970’s.
According to many who were close, and even Rex Humbard, Elvis was a Born Again Christian. He accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior before he died.
Anyone who knows Elvis, realizes his devotion to Gospel music was strong.
Many I have spoken to in Memphis show and tell of a long history of Elvis supporting various local religious causes. He was very giving towards the Jewish community there. His grandmother was Jewish. He studied many religions including Hinduism.
On Thursday, September 4th beginning at 8:30 p.m. CST, and ending on Sunday, September 6, during Labor Day weekend we conducted a poll of Elvis fans. It was presented on 48 different Elvis fan pages and Facebook Group sites.
Two of the group sites elected to be taken off the survey (after administrators had approved it) because of other administrator’s concerns.
However, four additional Elvis groups requested to be included, so we netted two groups, bringing the total to an even 50.
The survey was sent only to Elvis groups. There was no known biases or information for any political, cultural, racial or ideologies. The only criteria was being an Elvis fan and a member-follower of one of these fan groups.
Here are the instructions and information posted on each group page:
“We are conducting a survey on 48 different Elvis Presley social media pages and sites. PLEASE NO COMMENTS so we can streamline entering into a database. It will be the largest such survey ever.
If you must comment, please do so on my personal Facebook page. This will help us facilitate the poll expeditiously and properly.
Please simply reply with a “T” if you support President Trump, or a “B” if you support Joe Biden. Please just the letter, no comments.”
The response was overwhelming. With just over two hours after posting, more than 2,600 ‘votes’ came in.
I owe a great deal of thanks to three college “nerds,” (their words not mine) who facilitated the tabulation, databased it to check for duplicates across different group member votes and accuracy. Cynthia Herrera, Kamal Kaisar and Mitch Delaney had fun and perhaps became Elvis fans with this project.
This is the first targeted poll exclusively of Elvis Presley fans for a presidential election of this scale in history. As a comparison, to a typical Pew Research Center national survey of 1,500 completed interviews, they calculate they will be within plus or minus 2.9 percentage points with a 95% confidence interval. This means that in 95 out of every 100 samples of the same size and type, the results we obtain would vary by no more than plus or minus 2.9 percentage points from the result we would get if we could interview every member of the population.
Here are the results of the 2020 Presidential Election Survey of Elvis Presley Fans.
There were 5,836 total votes cast. But after duplicates were taken out to assure one vote per Elvis fan, we had 5,293 certified votes.
Instead of voting with a “T” for Trump or a “B” for Biden, 18 people made comments disliking the survey or calling it inappropriate. However, 62 comments were complementary or thankful for the survey.
Out of 5,293 certified votes, the totals are:
Donald Trump: 4,950 (93.519%)
Joe Biden: 343 (6.48%)
Raised in San Antonio, Jack Dennis’ early experiences were as a newspaper reporter and private investigator. With a Texas State University bachelor’s degree, Jack studied journalism, education and psychology. He was the founding vice-president of Sigma Delta Chi, the Association of Professional Journalists at the University. Jack has received numerous awards, including Investigative Reporter of the Year from Rocky Mountain Press Association, David Ashworth Community Award, and Leadership in Management.
Some of the people and groups Jack has interviewed include:
Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, George Strait, Roy Orbison, Justin Timberlake, Steven Tyler, Freddie Mercury, Kenny Rogers, Kenny Loggins, Jackson Browne, Steve Wariner, Tanya Tucker, Scotty Moore, Fats Domino, Patty Page, Tommy Roe, Emmy Lou Harris, Johnny Rivers, Charly McClain, Kinky Friedman, John McFee, Guy Allison & Patrick Simmons (Doobie Brothers) , Randy Bachman (BTO), Jim Messina, Todd Rundgren, Alvin Lee, Gary Puckett, The Ventures, Freddy Cannon, Augie Meyer, Christopher Cross, Whiskey Myers, Sha Na Na (John “Bowzer” Baumann), Flash Cadillac, Jerry Scheff, John Wilkinson, Darrell McCall, and more.
Politicians & News
George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Lady Bird Johnson, Greg Abbott, Rudolph Giuliani, Larry King, Jack Anderson, Tom Bradley, Connie Mack, and more.
Clint Eastwood, Mike Myers, Taylor Lautner, Cameron Diaz, Jerry Lewis, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Selena Gomez, Tippi Hedren, James Earl Jones, James Woods, Jim Nabors, Martha Raye, Rosalind Russell, June Lockhart, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Howie Mandel, Meg Ryan, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, James Drury, Melanie Griffith, Nathan Lane, Alan Thicke, Lou Diamond Phillips, Clint Howard, Tony Sirico, Cesar Romero, Michael Berryman, Tracy Scoggins, William Windom, Warren Stevens and more.
Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Wally Schirra, Dave Scott, Gene Cernan, Walt Cunningham, Scott Carpenter, Gene Kranz (NASA Flight Director), Ed Mitchell, Richard Gordon, Bruce McCandless, Vanentina Treshkova (first woman in space, Russia), Alex Leonov (first man to walk in space, Russian), Al Worden, Dee O’Hara (nurse to astronauts) and more.
Sports: Joe Torre, Roger Staubach, Bob Hayes, Billie Jean King, Manuela Maleeva, Drew Pearson, Bob Lilly, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, George Gervin, Tony Parker, Shannon Miller, Cathy Rigby, Bruce Bowen, Wade Boggs, Fernando Valenzuela, Bernie Kosar, Dale Murphy, Jim Abbott, Dick Bartell, Mike Schmidt, Dan Pastorini and more.
May Pang, Bob Eubanks, Vernon Presley, Vester Presley, Charlie Hodge, Joe Esposito, Rick Stanley (Elvis’ step-brother, Harold Lloyd (Elvis’ first cousin), Doyle Brunson, Kara Peller, Hank Meijer, Norman Brinkler, Stanley Marcus, Jerry King, Mac King, Nathan Burton, Zach Anner, Louie Anderson, Owen Benjamin, Steve Byrne and more.
As head of Facilities for a major retailer (H-E-B Food/Drugs) for 20 years, Jack co-founded Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association (PRSM) and was elected President to establish PRSM magazine. Jack is a writer, speaker, golf-concierge and happiness coach. He has researched and studied happiness for over 40 years.
Jack was a prolific writer for Examiner.com, with over 1,900 articles written in six years. His articles and stories have appeared in AXS Entertainment, The ROWDY Country Music, Memphis Flash, and numerous magazines.
He is author of “Miracles of Justice,” a true courtroom drama novel about social injustice and miracles.