Pretty Pols Win

More evidence suggesting Politics Isn’t About Policy:

Beautiful candidates are indeed more likely to be elected, with a one standard deviation increase in beauty associated with a 1 ½– 2 percentage point increase in voteshare. Our results are robust to several specification checks: adding party fixed effects, dropping well-known politicians, using non-Australian beauty raters, omitting candidates of non-Anglo appearance, controlling for age, and analyzing the ‘beauty gap’ between candidates running in the same electorate. The marginal effect of beauty is larger for male candidates than for female candidates. … Consistent with the theory that returns to beauty reflect discrimination, we find suggestive evidence that beauty matters more in electorates with a higher share of apathetic voters.

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  • http://sophia.smith.edu/~jdmiller/resume.pdf James Miller

    I haven’t read the paper but couldn’t this be explained by people (perhaps correctly) assuming that there is a positive correlation between beauty and otherwise hidden characteristics of a candidate. This would explain why apathetic voters who have less knowledge of a candidate rely more on beauty than do typical voters.

    In cave man times humans might have evolved an ability to judge to quality of a leader in part through observations of the leader’s appearance. Since in cave man times women were much less likely to be leaders than men were it makes sense by that the beauty gap is lower for women than men.

    • http://entitledtoanopinion.wordpress.com TGGP

      You may be right. From Bryan Caplan: An Implausible Randian Correlation Checks Out.

    • http://shagbark.livejournal.com Phil Goetz

      Rather, this could be explained by there being a positive correlation between beauty and other, not-necessarily-hidden characteristics of a candidate.

      I assume the study didn’t control for virtues of the candidates, such as intelligence, health, and optimism.

  • Ryan Langrill

    It makes sense that one would see these results in Australia. As the authors mention, voting is compulsory, therefore there is a higher level of apathetic voting. In this instance, I don’t see it as too surprising – in fact, I’m surprised the result isn’t more pronounced, assuming that Australia has indifference levels similar to America. I personally know a good number of people who, if forced to vote, would probably just vote for the most attractive candidate. I hope the percentage difference is lower in America…

    Very interesting.

  • http://denisbider.blogspot.com/ denis bider

    This is an interesting study, and your theory is plausible, but I think the degree to which this study supports your theory is weak. 1-2 percentage points is not a strong effect at all. If physical attractiveness was a major factor, the effect should be an order of magnitude stronger.

    Since the effect of beauty was higher where there were more apathetic voters, this suggests that there are some people who end up deciding based on physical attractiveness because they just can’t seem to find any other difference about which to care.

    Most people, however, still vote based on other grounds. Which doesn’t mean that those grounds have to do with policy – but they aren’t related to physical beauty, either.

  • Bill

    And that’s why Obama won?

  • Sean

    In cave man times humans might have evolved an ability to judge to quality of a leader in part through observations of the leader’s appearance.

    That’s not suprising, since ‘beautiful’ people tend to carry better genetics with the superior derived health and hormones; and people who posture themselves in an attractive way through body language are communicating with us on an unconscious level in the same way pack of animals communicate through visuals and posturing.

    Now, this doesn’t mean that hot girl you were just checking out will be a good leader, but…

  • John Maxwell IV

    No, clearly what’s going on is that beautiful people are more genetically fit, and therefore more intelligent, and voters are just trying to elect the smartest candidate!

  • Scott Sumner

    Following up on James and TGGP. I recall that there is a positive correlation between almost all “positive” human characteristics (beauty, personality, intelligence, athleticism, etc.) Isn’t there a huge omitted variable problem?

  • anon

    Two words: Halo effect. Move along, nothing to see here.

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  • http://shagbark.livejournal.com Phil Goetz

    I don’t believe this study. The correlation with beauty is too small to be believable. 1.5-2% per standard deviation of beauty? That’s nothing.