HELSINKI, Finland — Conservative politicians are better looking than their liberal counterparts, a new study finds, but when it comes to right-leaning scholars, their left-leaning peers are the more attractive ones.
A previous study determined that politicians on the right were the better-looking bunch, but the current study’s author, University of Helsinki Professor Jan-Erik Lönnqvist, sought to examine whether the accolade meant all people who lean right were more pleasing to the eye. He found scholars to be an appropriate comparison when it comes to factors such as age, education level, social status, and public perception.
Lönnqvist found it was more likely that conservative politicians were better looking because attractiveness carries more weight among right-leaning parties and voters than it does to those on the left. Being viewed as attractive matters more on the right and plays a stronger role in whether a candidate is elected, he determined.
“The results of my study are in concordance with other studies that show that the effect of attractive looks is twice as large for politicians on the right compared to their counterparts on the left,” he says in a university release.
Lönnqvist’s team of researchers looked at the 100 most recent authors of articles found in two right-leaning scholarly American magazines (Claremont Review of Books and First Things), and in two left-leaning magazines (New York Review of Books and The Humanist Magazine). The team obtained professional portraits of each of the 400 authors, and research assistants were then asked to rate the individuals based on “physical attractiveness, placement on the continuum Right–Left and placement on the continuum Conservative–Liberal.”
The results showed that the more attractive scholars came from the liberal publications, though the authors on the right were viewed as better groomed.
“The fact that left-leaning scholars are perceived as better-looking is no cause for alarm,” Lönnqvist says. “What is worrying, however, is the high degree of importance attached to looks in political elections.”
Being more physically attractive has been shown to have a positive correlations with a person’s success, income, happiness, and social status. Yet when a voter becomes more informed about a candidate or campaign, attractiveness has less of an impact in the results of an election.
“One possible reason for the greater influence of looks on Right-wing constituents could be that they are less informed. Previous research has also shown that conservative voters have a more concrete, perhaps less sophisticated way of thinking,” Lönnqvist argues.
He hopes his study will open more voters’ eyes to the effect looks may play in a campaign or election.
The study “Just because you look good, doesn’t mean you’re right” was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.