Republicans Prefer Republican-Looking Leaders: Political Facial Stereotypes Predict Candidate Electoral Success Among Right-Leaning Voters
Olivola CY., Sussman AB., Tsetsos K., Kang OE., Todorov A.
Previous research suggests that voting in elections is influenced by appearance-based personality inferences (e.g., whether a political candidate has a competent-looking face). However, since voters cannot objectively evaluate politicians' personality traits, it remains to be seen whether appearance-based inferences about a characteristic continue to influence voting when clear information about that characteristic is available. The authors examine the impact of appearance-based inferences for a characteristic that is well known about candidates: their political affiliation. Across two studies, the authors show that U.S. candidates facing conservative electorates benefit from looking more stereotypically Republican than their rivals (controlling for gender, ethnicity, and age). In contrast, no relationship between political facial stereotypes and voting is found for liberal electorates (using identical controls). The authors further show that this contrast between liberal and conservative electorates has more to do with individual-level differences between liberal and conservative voters than with macro-level differences between liberal and conservative states. © The Author(s) 2012.