Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Research Institute of Industrial Economics

No 855: The Right Look: Conservative Politicians Look Better and Voters Reward It

Niclas Berggren (), Henrik Jordahl () and Panu Poutvaara ()
Additional contact information
Niclas Berggren: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN), Postal: P.O. Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden
Henrik Jordahl: Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN), Postal: P.O. Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden
Panu Poutvaara: University of Munich, Postal: and Ifo Institute for Economic Research, Ifo Institute for Economic Research, Poschingerstr.5, 81679 Munich,Germany

Abstract: 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.

Keywords: Beauty; Elections; Political candidates; Appearance; Ideology; Parties

JEL-codes: D72; J45; J70

28 pages, First version: December 20, 2010. Revised: February 8, 2012.

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