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Is voting skin-deep? Estimating the effect of candidate ballot photographs on election outcomes

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  • Leigh, Andrew
  • Susilo, Tirta

Abstract

In the Northern Territory, Australia, ballot papers for territory elections depict candidates' photographs. We exploit this unusual electoral feature by looking at the effect that candidates' beauty and skin color has on voting patterns. Our results for beauty are mixed, but we find strong evidence that skin color matters. In electorates with a small Indigenous population, lighter-skinned candidates receive more votes, while in electorates with a high number of Indigenous people, darker-skinned candidates are rewarded at the ballot box. The relationship between skin color and electoral performance is stronger for challengers than incumbents. We explain this with a model in which voters use skin color as a proxy for some underlying characteristic which they value only to the extent that they share the trait.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:30:y:2009:i:1:p:61-70
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    1. 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.
    2. Olivier Gergaud & Victor Ginsburgh & florine Livat, 2016. "Looking Good and Looking Smart," Working Papers ECARES ECARES 2016-28, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    3. Hamermesh, Daniel S. & Abrevaya, Jason, 2013. "Beauty is the promise of happiness?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 351-368.
    4. Deryugina, Tatyana & Shurchkov, Olga, 2015. "Now you see it, now you don’t: The vanishing beauty premium," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 116(C), pages 331-345.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Elections Beauty Race Facial characteristics;

    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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