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Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Think You're Attractive? Then Run for Office!

In their new article "Beautiful Politicians" published just last month (a non-subscription draft is available here), Amy King of Oxford and Andrew Leigh of Australian National University pose a provocative question: "Are beautiful politicians more likely to be elected?" Their answer is emphatically yes. Beauty does indeed matter, at least in Australia, which is the site of their fascinating social science study. 

It should perhaps come as no surprise that physical appearance can help candidates close the deal with voters. After all, quite apart from the Australian data, modern American presidential history demonstrates that the taller candidate typically wins. And there is some evidence that beauty matters to the American electorate, too.

So what? Well, if people find you physically attractive, you've got a good chance of winning an electoral contest. It might be worth a shot at a congressional seat--especially given perks like these or those. That's if, of course, you can first raise the $1.1 million or $6.5 million needed to win a House or Senate race, respectively, in the United States.

Posted by Richard Albert on December 2, 2009 at 12:45 AM in Law and Politics | Permalink


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Ha! Thanks, Joseph. You're right--the level of restraint here is quite impressive. Now, I'm all for restraint. But only in the judicial context!

Posted by: Richard Albert | Dec 2, 2009 1:16:14 PM

Interesting stuff, Richard, and it looks like the results are relatively significant - "a one standard deviation increase in beauty associated with a 1½ – 2 percentage point increase in voteshare." Law and democracy is well beyond my area of expertise, but I'd be interested to compare that impact with the impact of campaign spending. I wouldn't be surprised if, for example, it takes $200,000 to earn an additional percentage point in your average Congressional race, which'd suggest a pretty high dollar value for beauty.

Also, the fact that nobody has yet commented something along the lines of, "Then how to you explain Congressman X?" is a real testament to the maturity of the Prawfs readership. I mean, talk about putting one right over the plate ....

Posted by: Joseph Blocher | Dec 2, 2009 10:19:27 AM

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