The Politics of Beauty: The Effects of Partisan Bias on Physical Attractiveness

Abstract

Does politics cause people to be perceived as more or less attractive? As a type of social identity, party identifiers often exhibit in-group bias, positively evaluating members of their own party and, especially under conditions of competition, negatively evaluating out-party members. The current experiment tests whether political in-party and out-party status affects perceptions of the physical attractiveness of target persons. In a nationally representative internet sample of U.S. adults during the 2012 presidential election, we presented participants with photos of individuals and varied information about their presidential candidate preference. Results indicate that partisans, regardless of gender, rate target individuals as less attractive if they hold a dissimilar candidate preference. Female partisans, however, were more likely to rate target persons as more physically attractive when they held a similar candidate preference whereas no such effect was found for male partisans.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Data and code for replication of our analysis can be accessed at the Political Behavior dataverse: http://dx.doi.org/10.7910/DVN/XIPZQT.

  2. 2.

    Party Registration and Party Identification are highly correlated (α = 0.91).

  3. 3.

    The pictures are stock photos obtained from shutterstock.com.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Matt DeBell, Diane Felmlee, and Alex Theodoridis for helpful comments and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Stephen P. Nicholson.

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Nicholson, S.P., Coe, C.M., Emory, J. et al. The Politics of Beauty: The Effects of Partisan Bias on Physical Attractiveness. Polit Behav 38, 883–898 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-016-9339-7

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Keywords

  • Physical attractiveness
  • Party identification
  • Party cues
  • Social judgment
  • Partisan polarization
  • Social distance
  • Mate selection