Being good-looking helps in politics, especially with voters who are ill-informed and watch lots of television, according to an analysis by political scientists from MIT.
These researchers combined data from a Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) about voters' choices, levels of knowledge and television-watching habits and a Princeton University study that asked voters to choose candidates based solely on their appearances.
The data showed that voters who watched the most television and are in the bottom quartile for political knowledge gave a 4.8 percent increase in support for a 10-point increase in a candidate's appearance advantage.
This support dwindled to just 1.3 percent for voters who watch the most television in the middle two quartiles for political knowledge.
For voters who watch little or no television, the 10-point looks advantage translated to a 0.8 percent increase in support for both the least informed and those in the middle two quartiles.
It's amazing how consistent this pattern is, said Gabriel Lenz of the University of California, Berkeley, who worked on the study while at MIT.
One policy implication of this study is that the US political system and media are not making enough information available to some voters, said Lenz. These voters are then influenced by factors like physical appearances in their voting decisions.