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The Right Look: Conservative Politicians Look Better and Voters Reward It

Listed author(s):
  • Berggren, Niclas

    ()

    (Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN))

  • Jordahl, Henrik

    ()

    (Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN))

  • Poutvaara, Panu

    ()

    (University of Munich)

Political candidates on the right are more beautiful or are seen as more competent than candidates on the left in Australia, Finland, France, and the United States. This appearance gap gives candidates on the right an advantage in elections, which could in turn influence policy outcomes. As an illustration, the Republican share of seats increased by an average of 6% in the 2000–2006 U.S. Senate elections because they fielded candidates who looked more competent. These shifts are big enough to have given the Republicans a Senate majority in two of the four Congresses in the studied time period. The Republicans also won nine of the 15 gubernatorial elections where looks were decisive. Using Finnish data, we also show that beauty is an asset for political candidates in intra-party competition and more so for candidates on the right in low-information elections. Our analysis indicates that this advantage arises since voters use good looks as a cue for conservatism when candidates are relatively unknown.

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Paper provided by Research Institute of Industrial Economics in its series Working Paper Series with number 855.

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Length: 28 pages
Date of creation: 20 Dec 2010
Date of revision: 08 Feb 2012
Publication status: Published as Berggren, Niclas, Henrik Jordahl and Niclas Berggren, 'The Right Look: Conservative Politicians Look Better and Voters Reward It' in Journal of Public Economics, 2017, pages 79-86.
Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0855
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Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden

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  1. Hamermesh, Daniel S. & Abrevaya, Jason, 2011. ""Beauty Is the Promise of Happiness"?," IZA Discussion Papers 5600, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. 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.
  3. John Karl Scholz & Kamil Sicinski, 2015. "Facial Attractiveness and Lifetime Earnings: Evidence from a Cohort Study," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 97(1), pages 14-28, March.
  4. Atkinson, Matthew D. & Enos, Ryan D. & Hill, Seth J., 2009. "Candidate Faces and Election Outcomes: Is the Face–Vote Correlation Caused by Candidate Selection?," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 4(3), pages 229-249, October.
  5. Poutvaara, Panu & Jordahl, Henrik & Berggren, Niclas, 2009. "Faces of politicians: Babyfacedness predicts inferred competence but not electoral success," Ratio Working Papers 139, The Ratio Institute.
  6. Tim Besley & Stephen Coate, "undated". "An Economic Model of Representative Democracy," Penn CARESS Working Papers ecf70d639d700dba5327ab0c8, Penn Economics Department.
  7. Mobius, Markus & Rosenblat, Tanya, 2010. "Why Beauty Matters," Staff General Research Papers Archive 32112, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  8. Berggren, Niclas & Jordahl, Henrik & Poutvaara, Panu, 2010. "The looks of a winner: Beauty and electoral success," Munich Reprints in Economics 20267, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  9. 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.
  10. Belmi, Peter & Neale, Margaret, 2014. "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Thinking that one is attractive increases the tendency to support inequality," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 124(2), pages 133-149.
  11. Poutvaara, Panu, 2003. "Party Platforms with Endogenous Party Membership," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 117(1-2), pages 79-98, October.
  12. Timothy Besley, 2004. "Joseph Schumpeter Lecture: Paying Politicians: Theory and Evidence," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 2(2-3), pages 193-215, 04/05.
  13. Amy King & Andrew Leigh, 2009. "Beautiful Politicians," CEPR Discussion Papers 616, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  14. Fong, Christina, 2001. "Social preferences, self-interest, and the demand for redistribution," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 225-246, November.
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