Looking the Part: Television Leads Less Informed Citizens to Vote Based on Candidates’ Appearance
Author(s)Lenz, Gabriel Salman; Lawson, J. Chappell H.
MetadataShow full item record
As long as there has been democratic government, skeptics have worried that citizens would base their choices and their votes on superficial considerations. A series of recent studies seems to validate these fears, suggesting that candidates who merely look more capable or attractive perform better in elections. In this article, we examine the underlying process behind the appearance effect. Specifically, we test whether the effect of appearance is more pronounced among those who know little about politics but are exposed to visual images of candidates. To do so, we combine appearance-based assessments of U.S. Senate and gubernatorial candidates with individual-level survey data measuring vote intent, political knowledge, and television exposure. Confirming long-standing concerns about image and television, we find that appealing-looking politicians benefit disproportionately from television exposure, primarily among less knowledgeable individuals.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Political Science
American Journal of Political Science
Lenz, Gabriel S., and Chappell Lawson. “Looking the Part: Television Leads Less Informed Citizens to Vote Based on Candidates’ Appearance.” American Journal of Political Science 55, no. 3 (April 4, 2011): 574–589.
Author's final manuscript