The 'beauty premium' in politics

A paper co-written by Marcus Rösch, PhD candidate at the department of Applied Economics of Erasmus School of Economics, titled ‘Election systems, the 'beauty premium' in politics, and the beauty of dissent’, has received attention from Economic Statistical Reports (ESB). The research finds that beauty matters for electoral success in plurality elections. However, it remains unclear whether political parties strategically use this beauty premium to achieve their goals.

The value of beauty

Research shows that attractive people often have a leg up on others. Rösch, Potrafke and Ursprung researched how beauty is valued in politics and to what extent this differs per electoral system. They analyse the attractiveness of candidates in the German elections with the help of an attractiveness score based on the assessment of American raters.

Translation of physical attractiveness into electoral success

The results show that plurality elections provide more scope for translating physical attractiveness into electoral success than proportional representation. On the other hand, physically attractive members of Parliament were also found to be more likely to dissent from their party line than less attractive members. Whether political parties use the beauty premium to their advantage is less clear.

More information

The article by ESB, 9 July 2020, can be downloaded above (in Dutch). 

The research paper by Marcus Rösch, Niklas Potrafke and Heinrich Ursprung, can be found here

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