Low-information voters who watch a lot of television appear more influenced by candidates' good looks than those who watch little TV, U.S. researchers say.
Study co-authors Chappell Lawson and Gabriel Lenz of the Massachusetts and colleagues used data from the 2006 U.S. Senate and governors' races and found for every 10-point increase in the advantage a candidate has when rated by voters on his or her looks, there was a nearly 5 percent increase in the vote for that candidate by less-informed voters who watch a good deal of television.
That same advantage in looks was worth only about a 1 percent increase among low-information voters who watch little television.
"It's not that this effect influences all voters exactly the same way," Lawson says in a statement. "Voters who watch a lot of television but don't really know much about the candidates, besides how they look, are particularly susceptible."
The researchers used two 2006 surveys of American voters -- one that sampled 36,500 citizens about their voting choices, levels of knowledge and television-watching habits, and one that asked voters to choose, based solely on appearances, which candidates seemed more competent in 64 U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races.
The study, published in the American Journal of Political Science, finds the appearance advantage among low-information voters translates into a substantial edge at the ballot box, the size of the effect is roughly equivalent to the influence of incumbency.