Pretty pollies do better

WHILE John Howard may not be the average voter’s choice of poster pin-up, beauty does count in politics, according to researchers at the Australian National University (ANU). Using data from the 2004 federal election, a team from ANU investigated whether more attractive candidates were also more successful in their bid for electoral victory. The researchers found a strong positive relationship between assessment of beauty and vote share, which is science-speak for a resounding endorsement of their theory. Increasing a candidate’s beauty by one standard deviation gave a corresponding 1.4 per cent rise in vote share, which is pretty interesting if you’re a pollie who stood for election between 1996 and 2004, when one tenth of races were decided by a margin of less than 1.4 percentage points. The researchers also found the beauty effect is, surprisingly, stronger for male candidates, blaming the gender bias on a negative societal stereotype that women can’t be both attractive and intelligent. They also found that voters in electorates that are poorer, less educated and older are more likely to be swayed by an attractive candidate. And when it comes down to party lines, it’s the Liberals before Labor and the National Party in the beauty stakes.

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