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The Looks of a Winner: Beauty and Electoral Success

PublicationArticle (with peer review)
Företagandets villkor, Henrik Jordahl, Niclas Berggren, Panu Poutvaara, Val

Abstract

We study the role of beauty in politics using candidate photos that figured prominently in electoral campaigns. Our investigation is based on visual assessments of 1929 Finnish political candidates from 10,011 respondents (of which 3708 were Finnish). As Finland has a proportional electoral system, we are able to compare the electoral success of non-incumbent candidates representing the same party. An increase in our measure of beauty by one standard deviation is associated with an increase of 20% in the number of votes for the average non-incumbent parliamentary candidate. The relationship is unaffected by including education and occupation as control variables and withstands several other robustness checks.

Related content: Working Paper No. 104

Berggren, N., Jordahl, H. & Poutvaara, P. (2010). ”The Looks of a Winner: Beauty and Electoral Success.”Journal of Public Economics, 94(1-2): 8-15.

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Working Paper No. 161. The right look
Working paperPublication
Berggren, N., Jordahl, H. & Poutvaara, P.
Publication year

2010

Published in

Ratio Working Paper

Abstract

Previous research has established that good-looking political candidates win more votes. We extend this line of research by examining differences between parties on the left and on the right of the political spectrum. Our study combines data on personal votes in real elections with a web survey in which 2,513 non-Finnish respondents evaluated the facial appearance of 1,357 Finnish political candidates. We find that political candidates on the right are better looking in both municipal and parliamentary elections and also have a larger beauty premium in municipal, but not in parliamentary, elections. We discuss possible explanations for these patterns, based on the fact that municipal candidates are relatively unknown.

Working Paper No. 161. The right look
Working paperPublication
Berggren, N., Jordahl, H. & Poutvaara, P.
Publication year

2010

Published in

Ratio Working Paper

Abstract

Previous research has established that good-looking political candidates win more votes. We extend this line of research by examining differences between parties on the left and on the right of the political spectrum. Our study combines data on personal votes in real elections with a web survey in which 2,513 non-Finnish respondents evaluated the facial appearance of 1,357 Finnish political candidates. We find that political candidates on the right are better looking in both municipal and parliamentary elections and also have a larger beauty premium in municipal, but not in parliamentary, elections. We discuss possible explanations for these patterns, based on the fact that municipal candidates are relatively unknown.

Working Paper No. 104. The Looks of a Winner
Working paperPublication
Berggren, N., Jordahl, H. & Poutvaara, P.
Publication year

2006

Abstract

We study the role of beauty in politics. For the first time, focus is put on differences in how women and men evaluate female and male candidates and how different candidate traits relate to success in real and hypothetical elections. We have collected 16,218 assessments by 2,772 respondents of photos of 1,929 Finnish political candidates. Evaluations of beauty explain success in real elections better than evaluations of competence, intelli-gence, likability, or trustworthiness. The beauty premium is larger for female candidates, in contrast to findings in previous labor-market studies.

Related content: The Looks of a Winner: Beauty and Electoral Success

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