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

  • 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
Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0855
Contact details of provider: Postal: Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden
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  1. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1997. "An Economic Model of Representative Democracy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(1), pages 85-114, February.
  2. 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.
  3. Amy King & Andrew Leigh, 2009. "Beautiful Politicians," CEPR Discussion Papers 616, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Hamermesh, Daniel S. & Abrevaya, Jason, 2013. "Beauty is the promise of happiness?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 351-368.
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