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Looks matter

At least if you want to get elected:

Researchers showed voters pairs of candidates from 122 elections in Mexico and Brazil. The participants in the study were asked which candidate would be a better elected official. Respondents in India and the United States agreed with each other about 75 percent of the time when asked which candidate seemed superior; a group of respondents in the United States and Mexico agreed with each other about 80 percent of the time.

In turn, simply knowing which candidate the participants judged to have a superior appearance allowed the researchers to correctly predict the winner in 68 percent of Mexican elections and 75 percent of some Brazilian elections. “These are very large effects,” the authors note in the working paper, “Looking like a Winner: Candidate Appearance and Electoral Success in New Democracies,” which will be published in the journal World Politics this fall.

Of course, it's also easy to predict elections if you know the partisan composition of the voters, or the economic conditions in the district. In fact, given the power of factors such as incumbency, this seems like a strikingly high result.

By Ezra Klein  |  July 28, 2010; 11:47 AM ET
 
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Comments

Why wouldn't incumbents be better-looking than the average noob?

Posted by: MrDo64 | July 28, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Alex Todorov & colleagues already published a study in Science in 2005 showing that election outcomes could be predicted based on candidates' physical appearance. In that study, people looked at photos of the faces of candidates and judged their apparent competence, trustworthiness, and attractiveness. It was only the judgments of apparent competence which predicted the election outcomes.

http://www.princeton.edu/~atodorov/Publications/Todorov_Science2005.pdf

Todorov, A., Mandisodza, A., Goren, A. & Hall, C. (2005). Inferences of competence from faces predict election outcomes. Science, 308, 1623–1626.

Posted by: vince432 | July 28, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the info, Ezra. I'm sure the political operatives will put that to good use in the upcoming Kennedy-Nixon debates.

Posted by: bobsteph1234 | July 28, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the info, Ezra. I'm sure the political operatives will put that to good use in the upcoming Kennedy-Nixon debates.

Posted by: bobsteph1234 | July 28, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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