Facial appearances and electoral success

Does regional corruption moderate preferences for trustworthy-looking politicians?

Research output: Working paperOther research output

10 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

People rely on the facial appearances of political candidates when voting. However, there is conflicting evidence regarding which perceived traits (e.g., competence, trustworthiness, or attractiveness) are associated with electoral success. In line with situational leadership theories, we test the hypothesis that trait preferences for politicians vary as a function of election context. For example, trustworthy-looking politicians may be more successful in regions where corruption is a salient issue. We analyze data from the 2016 Italian local elections (150 mayoral candidates from 75 constituencies) to test if perceived trustworthiness predicts electoral success to a larger extent in Southern Italy, where corruption is more prevalent. In three preregistered studies (N = 470), we found no evidence that perceived trustworthiness or perceived competence is 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 2.99 percentage point increase in vote share and a 1.93 times increase in the odds of victory. In sum, while we do not find evidence that corruption moderates the success of trustworthy-looking politicians, our results support the general notion that people rely on the facial appearances (particularly, attractiveness) of political candidates when voting.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusSubmitted - 2019

Fingerprint

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

Cite this

@techreport{8a5976a4bc8d4230938f3e96f628214a,
title = "Facial appearances and electoral success: Does regional corruption moderate preferences for trustworthy-looking politicians?",
abstract = "People rely on the facial appearances of political candidates when voting. However, there is conflicting evidence regarding which perceived traits (e.g., competence, trustworthiness, or attractiveness) are associated with electoral success. In line with situational leadership theories, we test the hypothesis that trait preferences for politicians vary as a function of election context. For example, trustworthy-looking politicians may be more successful in regions where corruption is a salient issue. We analyze data from the 2016 Italian local elections (150 mayoral candidates from 75 constituencies) to test if perceived trustworthiness predicts electoral success to a larger extent in Southern Italy, where corruption is more prevalent. In three preregistered studies (N = 470), we found no evidence that perceived trustworthiness or perceived competence is 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 2.99 percentage point increase in vote share and a 1.93 times increase in the odds of victory. In sum, while we do not find evidence that corruption moderates the success of trustworthy-looking politicians, our results support the general notion that people rely on the facial appearances (particularly, attractiveness) of political candidates when voting.",
author = "Bastian Jaeger and Anthony Evans and {van Beest}, Ilja",
year = "2019",
language = "English",
type = "WorkingPaper",

}

TY - UNPB

T1 - Facial appearances and electoral success

T2 - Does regional corruption moderate preferences for trustworthy-looking politicians?

AU - Jaeger, Bastian

AU - Evans, Anthony

AU - van Beest, Ilja

PY - 2019

Y1 - 2019

N2 - People rely on the facial appearances of political candidates when voting. However, there is conflicting evidence regarding which perceived traits (e.g., competence, trustworthiness, or attractiveness) are associated with electoral success. In line with situational leadership theories, we test the hypothesis that trait preferences for politicians vary as a function of election context. For example, trustworthy-looking politicians may be more successful in regions where corruption is a salient issue. We analyze data from the 2016 Italian local elections (150 mayoral candidates from 75 constituencies) to test if perceived trustworthiness predicts electoral success to a larger extent in Southern Italy, where corruption is more prevalent. In three preregistered studies (N = 470), we found no evidence that perceived trustworthiness or perceived competence is 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 2.99 percentage point increase in vote share and a 1.93 times increase in the odds of victory. In sum, while we do not find evidence that corruption moderates the success of trustworthy-looking politicians, our results support the general notion that people rely on the facial appearances (particularly, attractiveness) of political candidates when voting.

AB - People rely on the facial appearances of political candidates when voting. However, there is conflicting evidence regarding which perceived traits (e.g., competence, trustworthiness, or attractiveness) are associated with electoral success. In line with situational leadership theories, we test the hypothesis that trait preferences for politicians vary as a function of election context. For example, trustworthy-looking politicians may be more successful in regions where corruption is a salient issue. We analyze data from the 2016 Italian local elections (150 mayoral candidates from 75 constituencies) to test if perceived trustworthiness predicts electoral success to a larger extent in Southern Italy, where corruption is more prevalent. In three preregistered studies (N = 470), we found no evidence that perceived trustworthiness or perceived competence is 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 2.99 percentage point increase in vote share and a 1.93 times increase in the odds of victory. In sum, while we do not find evidence that corruption moderates the success of trustworthy-looking politicians, our results support the general notion that people rely on the facial appearances (particularly, attractiveness) of political candidates when voting.

M3 - Working paper

BT - Facial appearances and electoral success

ER -