Why Beauty Matters: Candidates' Facial Appearance and Electoral Success

Author Name ONO Yoshikuni (Faculty Fellow, RIETI) / ASANO Masahiko (Takushoku University)
Creation Date/NO. September 2020 20-E-072
Research Project Research on Political Behavior and Decision Making: Searching for evidence-based solutions to political challenges in the economy and industry
Download / Links


Why do better-looking candidates gain more votes in elections? Existing research shows that candidates' facial appearance—perceived beauty, in particular—affects the fate of their election outcomes. Yet, little is known about the mechanisms by which the beauty of candidates creates a premium in elections. To solve this puzzle, we ran a survey that asked around 1,500 people to subjectively evaluate more than 400 real candidates' facial appearance, including beauty. We then conducted a survey experiment with about 3,000 people that explored the effects of candidate beauty on voter perceptions. Our findings demonstrate that neither candidates' facial expression nor the impressions they impart on the viewer, such as smiling, competence and trustworthiness, hinder the positive influence of perceived beauty of the candidates on election outcomes. We find that the beauty of the candidates attracts the attention of voters and alters voters' impressions of the candidates' prospects of winning the election, suggesting that voters' incentives to seek information and get on the bandwagon are driving them to support good-looking candidates.