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The Looks of a Winner: Beauty, Gender and Electoral Success
We study the role of beauty in politics. For the first time, focus is put on differences in how women and men evaluate female and male candidates and how different candidate traits relate to success in real and hypothetical elections. We have collected 16,218 assessments by 2,772 respondents of photos of 1,929 Finnish political candidates. Evaluations of beauty explain success in real elections better than evaluations of competence, intelligence, likability, or trustworthiness. The beauty premium is larger for female candidates, in contrast to findings in previous labor-market studies.
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In a hypothetical election, we furthermore observe that female respondents tend to favor female candidates, while male respondents tend to vote equally often for men and women. Controlling for choices of the most beautiful, most competent, and most trustworthy candidate in a linear probability model confirms this general picture: female respondents tend to vote for women to a larger extent than men tend to vote for men. We find a similar pattern in general evaluations: female respondents tend to evaluate women in photos clearly more positively than male respondents do, while the gender differences in evaluating photos of men are small.
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