Ailing Voters Advance Attractive Congressional Candidates


Zebrowitz, L. A., Franklin, R. G., & Palumbo, R. (2015). Ailing Voters Advance Attractive Congressional Candidates. Evolutionary Psychology , 13 (1), 16-28.


Among many benefits of facial attractiveness, there is evidence that more attractive politicians are more likely to be elected. Recent research found this effect to be most pronounced in congressional districts with high disease threat—a result attributed to an adaptive disease avoidance mechanism, whereby the association of low attractiveness with poor health is particularly worrisome to voters who feel vulnerable to disease. We provided a more direct test of this explanation by examining the effects of individuals’ own health and age. Supporting a disease avoidance mechanism, less healthy participants showed a stronger preference for more attractive contenders in U.S. Senate races than their healthier peers, and this effect was stronger for older participants, who were generally less healthy than younger participants. Stronger effects of health for older participants partly reflected the absence of positive bias toward attractive candidates among the healthiest, suggesting that healthy older adults may be unconcerned about disease threat or sufficiently wise to ignore attractiveness.

Last updated on 03/23/2016