Politicians look better if they’re on your side

"There's no 'Republican look' or 'Democrat hairdo,'" says Kevin M. Kniffin. "If you don't recognize political leaders and can't view them through partisan lenses, they don't have the halos or horns that influence perceptions of familiar leaders." (Credit: Shane Jackson/DigitalParadox/Flickr)

Do you think President Obama is more attractive than John Boehner? What about Nancy Pelosi and Sarah Palin?

If you find your candidate for political office more attractive than the opponent, you’re not alone, according to new research.


“We showed pictures of familiar and unfamiliar political leaders to voters in two different samples and found that familiarity and partisanship each significantly influenced how candidates were perceived,” says lead researcher Kevin M. Kniffin, a postdoctoral research associate at Cornell University’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management.

“For example, Democrats rated Barack Obama as more physically attractive, and Republicans tended to rate Sarah Palin as better looking.”

In both of the studies, people were viewing the pictures “through partisan-colored lenses,” explains Kniffin.

The researchers effectively removed the partisan-colored lenses by asking study participants to view unlabeled pictures of unfamiliar political leaders from distant states.

The results for those unfamiliar candidates showed no favoritism based on political affiliation.

“There’s no ‘Republican look’ or ‘Democrat hairdo,'” Kniffin says. “If you don’t recognize political leaders and can’t view them through partisan lenses, they don’t have the halos or horns that influence perceptions of familiar leaders.”

The study appears today in the Leadership Quarterly.

Source: Cornell University