What is it about?

Focusing on the three traits attractiveness, competence and likability, we address the question of appearance-based effects at the U.S. House of Representatives election 2016. Corresponding to the comparative character of electoral competition in the districts, we developed a relative measure of the three traits which we apply in an online survey. We find that attractiveness positively affects the vote share, whereas perceived likability and competence play no role.

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Why is it important?

The study also tests to what extent the found appearance effects are conditioned by incumbency status, age, and gender of the contestants. Furthermore, it gives hints which aspects of their appearance candidates could change to perform better at the ballot box.


Compared to similar studies in Germany where attractiveness and perceived competence both play a major role, the result for the US-case was astonishing since for the HoR candidates only attractiveness matters. The potential gain of attractiveness was in the USA also much bigger (up to 11 percentage points) compared to Germany (ca. 3 percentage points). This result matches well with works on the strong personalization of politics in the US.

Seabstian Jäckle

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: A Catwalk to Congress? Appearance-Based Effects in the Elections to the U.S. House of Representatives 2016, American Politics Research, September 2019, SAGE Publications,
DOI: 10.1177/1532673x19875710.
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