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Beauty and the 2012 presidential race

Economics Professor Daniel Hamermesh explains why beauty in politics matters less and less the more important the race is.

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Daniel Hamermesh

Daniel Hamermesh 

Daniel Hamermesh is the Sue Killam Professor in the Foundations of Economics. A nationally known labor economist, Hamermesh specializes in social programs, the economic benefits of beauty, academic labor markets and unusual applications in everyday life.


Many observers have remarked upon how good-looking some of the presidential candidates are, with comments made throughout the race about Mitt Romney and, late last summer, about Governor Rick Perry.

As Perry’s experience shows, looks aren’t everything.

In fact, a broad array of research on the role of beauty in politics shows that looks matter less and less the more important the race is.

They do matter in low-level races I guess we prefer to elect good- over bad-looking dog-catchers. But the more voters care about an election and learn about the candidates, the less important looks become.


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The 2012 election season is promising to be one of the most unpredictable cycles in recent history. Follow the complete 2012 elections coverage on Know.

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Looks matter even less when there is an incumbent in the race. Presumably with an incumbent running people focus more on his or her successes and failures and less on superficial characteristics like looks.

Those research results, too, suggest that the candidates’ looks in this year’s presidential election will just not be an important issue.

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