Which politicians do you find attractive

attractivenessWhy we rather Well looking Politicians and Politician choose

Unfortunately, it is banal: good-looking politicians get more votes. It's so. Evidence studies. Researchers have taken a closer look at what exactly is going on in us.

Researchers at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg wanted to find out how much the appearance of politicians influences their success. In the last federal election in 2017, candidates received 3.8 percentage points more than those who are not considered attractive, says Sebastian Jäckle. He is a social scientist and head of the research group.

"If we have a very attractive person, then he can get up to 3.8 percentage points more."
Sebastian Jäckle, social scientist at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg

But how can attractiveness be measured at all? Sebastian Jäckle explains that they first took the two most successful candidates from a constituency and presented them to the participants in the study. The test subjects were asked to use the portrait photos to evaluate which candidate they find more attractive, who they consider more personable and who looks more competent.

"There are politicians who are considered by up to 100 percent of all test subjects to be less attractive or even more attractive."
Sebastian Jäckle, social scientist at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg

Using this approach, the researchers determined which candidates were considered attractive by up to 100 percent of all test subjects or not compared to the opposing candidate. The researchers then compared these results with the election results to see whether they had more or less chances in the election.

Appearance is becoming more and more important in politics

What is attractive anyway? In general, people who look young and dynamic are perceived as attractive. Women with loose, long hair are rated as more attractive than women with short hairstyles. Hair also plays a role in men: men with little hair or bald head were consistently rated as unattractive, says Sebastian Jäckle.

This attractiveness rating has changed over the past few years. While in the 2013 election there was an additional two percentage points for politicians about appearance, in 2017 it was 3.8 to a maximum of four percentage points. In the USA, on the other hand, appearance makes up 11 to 12 percent.

"In the USA the effect is three times as high as in Germany."
Sebastian Jäckle, social scientist at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg

This development of increasing percentage points due to appearance goes well with another development in politics, the mediatization and personalization of politics, says Sebastian Jäckle. The public image is decisive for success as a politician.

"The image that a politician gives is ultimately more important than what he really does."
Sebastian Jäckle, social scientist at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg

Appearance-based heuristics are like a shortcut that our brain takes to arrive at a reasonably plausible assessment, says the social scientist. This means that when we see an election poster, we still don't know what that person stands for. But our brain switches very quickly, says Sebastian Jäckle. It links the information about the appearance with other properties that would be relevant for the choice. We then subconsciously choose rather attractive people.

Prominence over attractiveness

It works differently for prominent candidates who we know from the media because we know their statements and therefore assess the person differently based on additional information. The appearance would play a subordinate role, explains Sebastian Jäckle.

"The more well-known a person is, the less relevant their appearance is."
Sebastian Jäckle, social scientist at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg

Donald Trump confirms this connection. The US President is so well known and present in all kinds of media and public appearances that people can get a diverse picture of him. Therefore, his appearance is less relevant for the voting decision, even if there are many people who made fun of it.

"We have to free ourselves from the thought that we humans would always make rational decisions. We just don't do it."
Sebastian Jäckle, social scientist at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg

With the heuristics we would come to for ourselves rational voting decisions, often supported by catchy populist slogans. Sebastian Jäckle advises that we should always be aware of this irrationality that we have in us.