Why did Labour lose the last election? This new paper suggests an alternative explanation:
We find that candidates on the right look better than candidates on the left. Second, we find a greater effect of good looks, in terms of more votes, for candidates on the right.
This comes from Finland, but it corroborates research in Australia (pdf) and the US (pdf), which has also found that good-looking candidates get more votes. It is consistent with the fact that beautiful people earn more than ugly ones, and with the finding (pdf, via) that folk are more likely to give to charity if asked to do so by a blonde rather than brunette. As Will said in The Greatest TV Show Ever Made: “I’m a man of strong principles, and one of those principles is that I’ll do anything a girl I fancy asks me to.”
What’s new here, though, is that the beauty premium is greater for right-wing politicians. One reason for this, the authors suggest, is that people are more inclined (pdf) to trust good-looking people and to expect them to behave pro-socially. This instinct weakens the tendency for right-wingers to be regarded as the “nasty party”, and so makes voters more willing to support them. Paradoxically, though, other academic evidence suggests the trust we place in good-looking people is often misplaced. Nick Clegg’s career fits this pattern.
One implication of all this is that the Tories would be well advised to ensure that Michael Gove keeps a low profile. This would be a unique example of their self-interest coinciding with the national interest.