Do voters vote for attractive politicians more than they do for less attractive candidates?
It is a common adage that appearance matters, as it often offers many unrivalled competitive advantages over the others (Berggren, Jordahl and Poutvaara, 2006, p.1). It is indeed true that beauty lies in eyes of the beholder. Contrary, it has been empirically proved that when people are asked to rate attractiveness of an individual their response is usually quite similar (Rhode, 2010, p.1; Berggren, Jordahl and Poutvaara, 2006, p.5). According to employment law alliance (2005) cited in Rhodes (2010, p.1) observes that 16% of workers have reported being victims of appearance discrimination. This kind of perception about individual’s appearance has a huge bearing on what people think of him/her in terms of likeability and intelligence irrespective of the underlying truth (Rhode, 2010, p.2). Unattractive people are less likely to be hired or promoted even in work situations that do not demand attractive appearance (Rhode, 2010, p.2; Berggren, Jordahl and Poutvaara, 2006, p.1).Apart from, charisma and social skills, politicians as public figures are subject to appearance evaluation. This paper examines if attractiveness of a candidates influence the possibility of him/her being a victor in the elections.
Berggren, Jordahl and Poutvaara (2006, p.1) observes that attractive people display positive characters in them more than the unattractive ones. In their effort to determine the impact of being beautiful in the political field, and the chances of being elected, they found out that politicians with attractive appearance have a critical advantage over the others who had average look (Berggren, Jordahl and Poutvaara, 2006, p.11 and 14). In order to clarify their findings, they observed that beauty is not a necessary precondition for being elected. In their in-depth analysis, they found out that relative beauty is pivotal in explaining variation in vote share for both female and males. They noted that a higher beauty score of one unit translated to an increase of 2.5% to 2.8% in the vote share for female contestants, and between 1.5 5 to 2.1 % for male candidates (Berggren, Jordahl and Poutvaara, 2006, p.14).
Johns and Shepherd, 2007 (p.435) notes that there are close tie between appearance and impression formation. This same concept applies to the politicians where physical appearance can win votes for someone. Their study involved analysis of photos of the Member of Parliament. After the analysis, the respondents were to rate it on eight traits with aware and unaware conditions (Johns and Shepherd, 2007, p.442). In their bid to build a relationship in gender, image and vote, they found out that judgment based on these concepts can be more or less instantaneous (Johns and Shepherd, 2007, p.455). In their final submission, they found out that the MPs scored differently in the eight traits. However, female candidates had significant lead in warmth, likeableness, attractiveness, honesty and caring (Johns and Shepherd, 2007, p.443).
Publicity is an important factor for politicians. Publicity through various platforms of the media allows politicians to spread and galvanize their fame. Science daily (2010) in their study of the association between the physical appearance of politicians and news coverage of all members of the 16th Israeli Knesset in television channels 1, 2 and 10 found out that those who are physically attractive gain more air play than the others. In order to avoid bias, the members were rated by Dutch students. In addition, other control variable like age, sector, political tenure and centrality were taken into consideration. This kind of preferential treatment, also contributes to the higher success rate of the politician who is more attractive due to his high rate of influencing voters. In addition, physical appearance had more influence on the amount of coverage on women than men. However, female reporting was significantly less to men.
From the above observation, it is indeed true that appearance in a crucial factor for ones performance in elective posts. If other things held constant, attractive appearance holds a significant sway for one to emerge a victor. The strong case for attractiveness holds true for intra party elections where other factors such as policy hold constant for all or where voters have little basis for judgment (Johns and Shepherd, 2007, p.435; Berggren, Jordahl and Poutvaara, 2006, p.16). This bias is even evident in terms of media coverage where the attractive ones get more coverage than the others (Science daily, 2010).Therefore, in the near future we are likely to experience explosion of appearance discrimination since most of the elective posts and high rewarding positions will be occupied those perceived to be attractive irrespective of their technical skills. It is now clear that people who are not attractive are less likely to be hired or promoted in various work situations that do not demand attractive appearance.
- Berggren, N., Jordahl, H., and Poutvaara, P. (2006, Sept.). The looks of a winner: beauty, gender and electoral success. IZA discussion paper No. 2311
- Johns, R., and Shephard, M. (2007). Gender, candidate image and electoral process. The Authors. Journal compilation. Political Studies Association BJPIR, 2007, 9(3).
- Rhode, D. L. (2010, May 23). Why looks are the last bastion of discrimination. The Washington Post.
- Science Daily. (2010). Better-looking politicians get more media coverage. Retrieved on 28th November 2011 from: http://ad.doubleclick.net/ad/nbcu.science/family;chan=health;b=sd;f=family;f=parent;!c=sd;!c=family;!c=noopapd;dcopt=ist;pos=1;tile=1;sz=728×90;ord=123456a?