Facial appearances and electoral success: Are trustworthy-looking politicians more successful in corrupt regions?

Bastian Jaeger*, Anthony Evans, Ilja van Beest

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

People rely on the facial appearance of political candidates when voting. Here, we examine whether perceptions of competence, trustworthiness, or attractiveness are associated with electoral success in the 2016 Italian local elections. In line with situational leadership theory, we also test whether trait preferences for politicians vary as a function of election context. Specifically, we examine if trustworthy-looking politicians are more successful in regions where political corruption is a salient issue. We analyze electoral data of 150 mayoral candidates from 75 constituencies to test if the association between perceived trustworthiness and electoral success is stronger in Southern Italy, where corruption is more prevalent. Across three preregistered studies (N = 470), perceived competence and perceived trustworthiness were not associated with electoral success. Moreover, the influence of trustworthiness perceptions on electoral success did not differ between Southern Italy and the rest of the country. Instead, we found that attractive-looking politicians were more successful. A one standard deviation increase in perceived attractiveness corresponded to a 2.98 percentage point increase in vote share and a 1.91 times increase in the odds of victory. In sum, while our results support the general notion that facial appearance correlates with electoral success, we do not find evidence that corruption moderates the success of trustworthy-looking politicians.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusSubmitted - 2020

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politician
trustworthiness
corruption
social attraction
Italy
candidacy
local election
voting
voter
election
leadership
evidence

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title = "Facial appearances and electoral success: Are trustworthy-looking politicians more successful in corrupt regions?",
abstract = "People rely on the facial appearance of political candidates when voting. Here, we examine whether perceptions of competence, trustworthiness, or attractiveness are associated with electoral success in the 2016 Italian local elections. In line with situational leadership theory, we also test whether trait preferences for politicians vary as a function of election context. Specifically, we examine if trustworthy-looking politicians are more successful in regions where political corruption is a salient issue. We analyze electoral data of 150 mayoral candidates from 75 constituencies to test if the association between perceived trustworthiness and electoral success is stronger in Southern Italy, where corruption is more prevalent. Across three preregistered studies (N = 470), perceived competence and perceived trustworthiness were not associated with electoral success. Moreover, the influence of trustworthiness perceptions on electoral success did not differ between Southern Italy and the rest of the country. Instead, we found that attractive-looking politicians were more successful. A one standard deviation increase in perceived attractiveness corresponded to a 2.98 percentage point increase in vote share and a 1.91 times increase in the odds of victory. In sum, while our results support the general notion that facial appearance correlates with electoral success, we do not find evidence that corruption moderates the success of trustworthy-looking politicians.",
author = "Bastian Jaeger and Anthony Evans and {van Beest}, Ilja",
year = "2020",
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T1 - Facial appearances and electoral success: Are trustworthy-looking politicians more successful in corrupt regions?

AU - Jaeger, Bastian

AU - Evans, Anthony

AU - van Beest, Ilja

PY - 2020

Y1 - 2020

N2 - People rely on the facial appearance of political candidates when voting. Here, we examine whether perceptions of competence, trustworthiness, or attractiveness are associated with electoral success in the 2016 Italian local elections. In line with situational leadership theory, we also test whether trait preferences for politicians vary as a function of election context. Specifically, we examine if trustworthy-looking politicians are more successful in regions where political corruption is a salient issue. We analyze electoral data of 150 mayoral candidates from 75 constituencies to test if the association between perceived trustworthiness and electoral success is stronger in Southern Italy, where corruption is more prevalent. Across three preregistered studies (N = 470), perceived competence and perceived trustworthiness were not associated with electoral success. Moreover, the influence of trustworthiness perceptions on electoral success did not differ between Southern Italy and the rest of the country. Instead, we found that attractive-looking politicians were more successful. A one standard deviation increase in perceived attractiveness corresponded to a 2.98 percentage point increase in vote share and a 1.91 times increase in the odds of victory. In sum, while our results support the general notion that facial appearance correlates with electoral success, we do not find evidence that corruption moderates the success of trustworthy-looking politicians.

AB - People rely on the facial appearance of political candidates when voting. Here, we examine whether perceptions of competence, trustworthiness, or attractiveness are associated with electoral success in the 2016 Italian local elections. In line with situational leadership theory, we also test whether trait preferences for politicians vary as a function of election context. Specifically, we examine if trustworthy-looking politicians are more successful in regions where political corruption is a salient issue. We analyze electoral data of 150 mayoral candidates from 75 constituencies to test if the association between perceived trustworthiness and electoral success is stronger in Southern Italy, where corruption is more prevalent. Across three preregistered studies (N = 470), perceived competence and perceived trustworthiness were not associated with electoral success. Moreover, the influence of trustworthiness perceptions on electoral success did not differ between Southern Italy and the rest of the country. Instead, we found that attractive-looking politicians were more successful. A one standard deviation increase in perceived attractiveness corresponded to a 2.98 percentage point increase in vote share and a 1.91 times increase in the odds of victory. In sum, while our results support the general notion that facial appearance correlates with electoral success, we do not find evidence that corruption moderates the success of trustworthy-looking politicians.

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BT - Facial appearances and electoral success: Are trustworthy-looking politicians more successful in corrupt regions?

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