Public Release: 29-Mar-2017
Best-looking politicians lean right, best-looking scholars lean left
University of Helsinki
Previous research by Berggren, Jordahl and Poutvaara (2015) shows that in elections run in Australia, the European Union, Finland and the United States, Right-leaning politicians are generally more attractive than Left-leaning politicians. The current study by Professor Jan-Erik Lönnqvist shows that this applies specifically to politicians and does not mean that Right-leaning people on the whole are more attractive.
In order to investigate whether Right-leaning people are more attractive generally speaking, Lönnqvist examined Right-leaning scholars to see if they, too, were more attractive than their Left-leaning counterparts. Politicians and academics are comparable in many aspects such as age, level of education, social status and a place in the public eye.
"When it comes to a career in academia, however, looks do not appear to be of any great importance."
The primary reason that politicians on the Right look better than politicians on the Left could be that good looks have, within Right-leaning parties, more of an influence on the processes through which electoral candidates are selected and on the electoral success of the candidates.
"The results of my study are in concordance with other studies that show that the effect of attractive looks is twice as large for politicians on the Right compared to their counterparts on the Left," says Lönnqvist.
On the whole, physical attractiveness has a positive effect on a person's success and is associated with positive qualities. Attractive people earn more money, are treated better, achieve a higher social status and are happier. But the better informed the constituents, the lesser the effect of looks on election results.
"One possible reason for the greater influence of looks on Right-wing constituents could be that they are less informed. Previous research has also shown that conservative voters have a more concrete, perhaps less sophisticated way of thinking," Lönnqvist says.
Lönnqvist wishes voters would become more aware of the extent to which looks subconsciously influence voting behaviour. Voting advice applications are a good aid to help voters decide whom to vote for.