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Beautiful Politicians


  • Amy King
  • Andrew Leigh


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 'How-to-Vote' 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 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, and appears to be approximately linear. 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. Copyright 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Suggested Citation

  • Amy King & Andrew Leigh, 2009. "Beautiful Politicians," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(4), pages 579-593, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:kyklos:v:62:y:2009:i:4:p:579-593

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hamermesh, Daniel S & Biddle, Jeff E, 1994. "Beauty and the Labor Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1174-1194, December.
    2. Benno Torgler & Nemanja Antić & Uwe Dulleck, 2008. "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who Is the Happiest of Them All?," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(2), pages 309-319, May.
    3. Ebeid, Michael & Rodden, Jonathan, 2006. "Economic Geography and Economic Voting: Evidence from the US States," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 36(03), pages 527-547, July.
    4. Pfann, Gerard A. & Biddle, Jeff E. & Hamermesh, Daniel S. & Bosman, Ciska M., 2000. "Business success and businesses' beauty capital," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 67(2), pages 201-207, May.
    5. Andrew Leigh & Mark Mcleish, 2009. "Are State Elections Affected by the National Economy? Evidence from Australia," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 85(269), pages 210-222, June.
    6. Andrew Leigh, 2009. "Does the World Economy Swing National Elections?," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 71(2), pages 163-181, April.
    7. Hamermesh, Daniel S. & Meng, Xin & Zhang, Junsen, 2002. "Dress for success--does primping pay?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 361-373, July.
    8. Opp, Karl-Dieter, 2001. "Why Do People Vote? The Cognitive-Illusion Proposition and Its Test," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(2-3), pages 355-378.
    9. Markus M. Mobius & Tanya S. Rosenblat, 2006. "Why Beauty Matters," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 222-235, March.
    10. Harper, Barry, 2000. " Beauty, Stature and the Labour Market: A British Cohort Study," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 62(0), pages 771-800, Special I.
    11. Hung-Lin Tao, 2008. "Attractive Physical Appearance vs. Good Academic Characteristics: Which Generates More Earnings?," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(1), pages 114-133, February.
    12. Brennan, Geoffrey, 2001. "Five Rational Actor Accounts of the Welfare State," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(2-3), pages 213-233.
    13. Jones, Philip & Hudson, John, 2000. "Civic Duty and Expressive Voting: Is Virtue Its Own Reward?," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(1), pages 3-16.
    14. Biddle, Jeff E & Hamermesh, Daniel S, 1998. "Beauty, Productivity, and Discrimination: Lawyers' Looks and Lucre," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(1), pages 172-201, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Niclas Berggren & Henrik Jordahl & Panu Poutvaara, 2010. "The Right Look: Conservative Politicians Look Better and their Voters Reward it," CESifo Working Paper Series 3310, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. Berggren, Niclas & Jordahl, Henrik & Poutvaara, Panu, 2010. "The looks of a winner: Beauty and electoral success," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1-2), pages 8-15, February.
    3. Leigh, Andrew & Susilo, Tirta, 2009. "Is voting skin-deep? Estimating the effect of candidate ballot photographs on election outcomes," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 61-70, February.
    4. Berggren, Niclas & Jordahl, Henrik & Poutvaara, Panu, 2017. "The right look: Conservative politicians look better and voters reward it," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 79-86.
    5. Olivier Gergaud & Victor Ginsburgh & florine f. Livat, 2016. "Looking Good and Looking Smart," Working Papers ECARES ECARES 2016-28, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    6. Daniel Stockemer & Rodrigo Praino, 2015. "Blinded by Beauty? Physical Attractiveness and Candidate Selection in the U.S. House of Representatives," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 96(2), pages 430-443, June.
    7. Armstrong, J. Scott & Graefe, Andreas, 2011. "Predicting elections from biographical information about candidates: A test of the index method," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 64(7), pages 699-706, July.
    8. Fredrik Carlsson & Olof Johansson-Stenman, 2010. "Why Do You Vote and Vote as You Do?," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(4), pages 495-516, November.
    9. repec:spr:scient:v:104:y:2015:i:2:d:10.1007_s11192-015-1623-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Alexander Dilger & Laura Lütkenhöner & Harry Müller, 2015. "Scholars’ physical appearance, research performance, and feelings of happiness," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 104(2), pages 555-573, August.
    11. repec:bla:coecpo:v:35:y:2017:i:4:p:677-683 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Astghik Mavisakalyan, 2016. "Looks matter: Attractiveness and employment in the former soviet union," Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre Working Paper series WP1604, Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Curtin Business School.
    13. Linn-Brit Bakkenbüll & Stephanie Kiefer, 2015. "Are Attractive Female Tennis Players More Successful? An Empirical Analysis," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 68(4), pages 443-458, November.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • J45 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Public Sector Labor Markets
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing


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