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Faces of politicians: Babyfacedness predicts inferred competence but not electoral success


  • Poutvaara, Panu

    () (Department of Economics, University of Helsinki)

  • Jordahl, Henrik

    () (The Research Institute of Industrial Economics)

  • Berggren, Niclas

    () (The Ratio Institute)


Recent research has documented that competent-looking political candidates do better in U.S. elections and that babyfaced individuals are generally perceived to be less competent than maturefaced individuals. Taken together, this suggests that babyfaced political candidates are perceived as less competent and therefore fare worse in elections. We test this hypothesis, making use of photograph-based judgments by 2,772 respondents of the facial appearance of 1,785 Finnish political candidates. Our results confirm that babyfacedness is negatively related to inferred competence in politics. Despite this, babyfacedness is either unrelated or positively related to electoral success, depending on the sample of candidates.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:ratioi:0139
    Note: Forthcoming in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hamermesh, Daniel S., 2006. "Changing looks and changing "discrimination": The beauty of economists," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 93(3), pages 405-412, December.
    2. Lee, David S., 2008. "Randomized experiments from non-random selection in U.S. House elections," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 675-697, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Berggren, Niclas & Jordahl, Henrik & Poutvaara, Panu, 2010. "The Right Look: Conservative Politicians Look Better and Their Voters Reward it," Ratio Working Papers 161, The Ratio Institute.
    2. 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.
    3. Harry Garretsen & Janka I. Stoker & Rob Alessie & Joris Lammers, 2014. "Simply a Matter of Luck & Looks? Predicting Elections when Both the World Economy and the Psychology of Faces Count," CESifo Working Paper Series 4857, CESifo Group Munich.
    4. repec:ces:ifofor:v:18:y:2017:i:1:p:37-43 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Babyfacedness; Competence; Beauty; Trustworthiness; Elections;

    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
    • J70 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - General

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