Study says elections really are beauty pageants

Categories: General Archive

The New York Times reports on a study that suggests a great many voters pick candidates on the basis of looks alone. In the Princeton University experiment, a group of students was given pairs of photos of the candidates from select 2002 and 2004 Congressional races, leaving out the more familiar faces. They had one second to decide which candidate looked more competent. Writes the Times: "In 71.6 percent of the Senate races, the candidate considered more competent in the one-second test won. That means, the researchers said, that the test was as good a predictor of the outcome of an election as a candidate's incumbency."

This should prove some solace to Tim Pawlenty in his fall from grace as a dark-horse GOP presidential candidate in 2008--he didn't have the face to be president anyway. I wrote as much here back on March 2:

We think president is too much for Pawlenty. A quick survey of the presidential portrait gallery demonstrates the hard, timeless fact: While Americans may tolerate liars, philanderers, warmongers, and thieves in the White House, they hate guys with weak chins and cheekbones. It's a matter of historical record that no one with a ferret's muzzle like Pawlenty's has been elected since Calvin Coolidge in 1924.

And the Princeton study, fortuitously, explains why:

[A]n editorial accompanying the study suggests that looking babyish harms a candidate's chances. Both babies and baby-faced adults share certain characteristics: round faces, large eyes, small noses, high foreheads, and small chins. No one trusts the competence of a baby, and few, apparently, trust that of an adult who looks like one.

Read the Times story


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