Study shows conservative politicians are better looking - and it's a big advantage

Politics might be show business for ugly people but new research suggests Australian MPs on the right could be more attractive than those on the left.

A new study published in the Journal of Public Economics has found the attractiveness of political candidates correlates with political views, and that in Europe, the United States and Australia it's the conservative politicians who are better looking.

Researchers in Germany and Prague found that just as good-looking people are likely to earn more and those with higher incomes typically oppose redistributive government policies, voters use beauty as a cue for conservatism in low-information elections.

Using new research and a 2009 paper by federal Labor MP Andrew Leigh and Australian National University senior lecturer Amy King, the study suggests explanations for the hot or not trend, including that good looking people receive better treatment than other people in society and therefore see the world as more just.

The study's authors used rankings conducted by Dr Leigh and Dr King on the appearance of 280 candidates from the 2004 Australian federal election, as well as evaluations of the attractiveness of candidates in local Finnish elections, in Senate and gubernatorial races in the US and for seats in the European Parliament.

The scale rated politicians from very unattractive to very handsome or beautiful, awarding points for each status.

The earlier Australian study found a strong positive relationship between beauty assessments and share of the vote received by candidates, worth as much as a 1.4 percentage point increase, more than the margin of one in 10 seats in federal elections between 1996 and 2004.

In American elections where voters have low levels of information about their local candidates, Republicans were found to care more about appearance than Democrats, but election races with good television and newspaper coverage saw physical appearance matter equally across the political divide.

The study suggests beauty could attract about 20 per cent more votes for average candidates on the right in low-information elections, compared with about 8 per cent more votes for an average candidate on the left.

High-information elections see bumps of about 14 per cent for candidates on both the left and right.

"This is bound to have political consequences, as their beauty advantage, all else equal, makes candidates on the right more likely to win office and implement their preferred policies," the report said.

"The general appreciation of beauty among voters means that politicians on the right, who look better on average, have an advantage in elections.

"This can, in turn, be expected to have welfare consequences, since the relative strengths of the two main opposing sides in politics are affected and thereby the character of economic and social policy."

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The story Study shows conservative politicians are better looking - and it's a big advantage first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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