My coauthor Amy King (who won a Rhodes scholarship on Tuesday), and I have a new paper out today.
Are beautiful politicians more likely to be elected? To test this, we use evidence from Australia, a country in which voting is compulsory, and in which voters are given â€˜How to Voteâ€™ cards depicting photos of the major party candidates as they arrive to vote. Using raters chosen to be representative of the electorate, we assess the beauty of political candidates from major political parties, and then estimate the effect of beauty on voteshare for candidates in the 2004 federal election. Beautiful candidates are indeed more likely to be elected, with a one standard deviation increase in beauty associated with a 1Â½ â€“ 2 percentage point increase in voteshare. Our results are robust to several specification checks: adding party fixed effects, dropping well-known politicians, using a non-Australian beauty rater, omitting candidates of non-Anglo Saxon appearance, controlling for age, and analyzing the â€˜beauty gapâ€™ between candidates running in the same electorate. The marginal effect of beauty is larger for male candidates than for female candidates, and appears to be approximately linear. Beauty seems to matter more in poorer electorates, and in electorates where the median age is higher.
BEAUTIFUL POLITICIANS GET MORE VOTES: STUDY
Beautiful politicians win more votes, according to ANU research released today that asked an independent group of â€˜beauty ratersâ€™ to assess the looks of 286 major party candidates who ran in the 2004 federal election.
The study, conducted by ANU economist Dr Andrew Leigh and University of South Australia student Ms Amy King, found that voters tend to vote for the better-looking candidate.
â€œCompared to the average-looking political candidate, a candidate at the 84th percentile of the beauty distribution, as judged by our independent raters, receives an extra 1Â½ to 2 percent of the vote. In some seats, this is the difference between winning and losing,â€ Dr Leigh said.
The researchers used â€˜How-to-Voteâ€™ photographs, which were rated by four independent raters, chosen to be representative of the electorate. â€œThere was strong agreement across our raters as to who were the most beautiful candidates. When it comes to assessing politicians, beauty is not in the eye of the beholder,â€ Ms King said.
The researchers performed a series of robustness checks, and found little evidence that confounding factors such as age, race or political party were driving the results.
Ms King and Dr Leigh also analysed the effect of beauty separately for male and female candidates, and for incumbents and challengers.
â€œFor both male and female candidates, it helps to be better-looking. But we find some evidence that beauty benefits male candidates more than female candidates. This may be because female beauty carries negative connotations in the minds of some voters,â€ said Dr Leigh.
â€œBeauty matters more for challengers than for incumbents. This suggests that looks affect first impressions. Once voters come to know a politician, their physical appearance does not matter as much.
â€œWashington DC has been described as â€˜Hollywood for ugly peopleâ€™. But our results show that Australian voters are systematically choosing more handsome candidates to represent them in Canberra.â€
According to the raters, the ten most attractive major party candidates in the 2004 election were, in descending order: Nicole Campbell (ALP, Bennelong), Adam Giles (LP, Fraser), Victoria Brooks (ALP, Riverina), Andrew Laming (LP, Bowman), Julie Bishop (LP, Curtin), Kate Ellis (ALP, Adelaide), Sarah McMahon (LP, Reid), Michael Keenan (LP, Stirling), Pat Farmer (LP, Macarthur), and Sussan Ley (LP, Farrer).
A copy of the paper, Beautiful Politicians, is available at: http://econrsss.anu.edu.au/~aleigh/