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AU News

How Does a Candidate’s Appearance Affect You?

March 31, 2016

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Could the facial appearance of candidates impact the US presidential election? Is there a difference between older and younger voters when it comes to finding a candidate’s face trustworthy and reliable? New research published in Cogent Psychology has some intriguing answers.

Research has shown that people tend to vote for more competent-looking individuals and just a single image of a candidate from a campaign flyer can be enough to convey a candidate’s competence, integrity, and fitness for office. But until now, how older adults judge personality traits from faces has not been explored. The distinction between older and younger adults is vital, because it’s older adults who are more likely to vote.

New work from researchers at Anderson University and Brandeis University, USA, examines whether facial appearance alone affects how older and younger adults evaluate potential candidates. The research found that while older adults still choose more competent-looking candidates, they do not prefer them as strongly as younger adults.

‘We found that as people age, they prefer different facial characteristics in politicians. As one might expect, older adults prefer mature-looking faces.’ said Dr. Robert Franklin, Anderson University. ‘However, younger adults did not prefer mature or babyish candidates, but they were much more likely to vote for candidates that they thought were competent-looking. These findings are very important in understanding how aging affects voting behavior generally, especially as older adults are a critical voting population.’

The research also found that, although the candidate preferences of both groups were influenced by how competent, trustworthy, and attractive the candidates look, only the attractiveness ratings provided by older adults predicted actual electoral success.

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