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The looks of a winner: Beauty and electoral success

Author

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  • Berggren, Niclas
  • Jordahl, Henrik
  • Poutvaara, Panu

Abstract

We study the role of beauty in politics using candidate photos that figured prominently in electoral campaigns. Our investigation is based on visual assessments of 1929 Finnish political candidates from 10,011 respondents (of which 3708 were Finnish). As Finland has a proportional electoral system, we are able to compare the electoral success of non-incumbent candidates representing the same party. An increase in our measure of beauty by one standard deviation is associated with an increase of 20% in the number of votes for the average non-incumbent parliamentary candidate. The relationship is unaffected by including education and occupation as control variables and withstands several other robustness checks.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:94:y:2010:i:1-2:p:8-15
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    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. repec:cup:apsrev:v:101:y:2007:i:02:p:289-301_07 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Daniel J. Benjamin & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2009. "Thin-Slice Forecasts of Gubernatorial Elections," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(3), pages 523-536, August.
    4. Amy King & Andrew Leigh, 2009. "Beautiful Politicians," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(4), pages 579-593, November.
    5. Hamermesh, Daniel S., 2006. "Changing looks and changing "discrimination": The beauty of economists," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 93(3), pages 405-412, December.
    6. Markus M. Mobius & Tanya S. Rosenblat, 2006. "Why Beauty Matters," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 222-235, March.
    7. 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.
    8. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135-135.
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