Political Behavior

, Volume 36, Issue 4, pp 777–791

Decomposing the Relationship Between Candidates’ Facial Appearance and Electoral Success

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s11109-013-9253-1

Cite this article as:
Laustsen, L. Polit Behav (2014) 36: 777. doi:10.1007/s11109-013-9253-1


Numerous studies show that candidates’ facial competence predicts electoral success. However, a handful of other studies suggest that candidates’ attractiveness is a stronger predictor of electoral success than facial competence. Furthermore, the overall relationship between inferences from candidates’ faces and electoral success is challenged in two ways: (i) non-facial factors in candidate photos such as clothing and hair style as well as (ii) parties’ nomination strategies are suggested as potential confounds. This study is based on original data about all 268 candidates running in three local elections in 2009 in Denmark and supports a two-component structure of the relationship between candidates’ facial appearance and their electoral success. Facial competence is found to mediate a positive relationship between candidates’ attractiveness and electoral success, but simultaneously facial competence also predicts electoral success over and above what can be accounted for by attractiveness. Importantly these relationships are found when seven different non-facial factors, parties’ nomination strategies and candidates’ age and gender are controlled for. This suggests that the two-component structure of the relationship between candidates’ facial appearance and electoral success is highly robust.


Facial competence and attractiveness Visual cues Campaign photos Voting behavior 

Supplementary material

11109_2013_9253_MOESM1_ESM.docx (22 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 22 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political Science and GovernmentAarhus UniversityÅrhusDenmark

Personalised recommendations