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  • Beauty and the 2012 presidential race

    By Daniel Hamermesh
    Published: March 26, 2012
    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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    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.

    More from Daniel Hamermesh:

    • Quote 2
      Jeff said on April 3, 2012 at 8:58 p.m.
      What is a "bad-looking dog-catcher"? It's not Perry's "looks" that propelled his political career, it's probably his great academic record...ahem.
    • Quote 2
      Daniel said on March 30, 2012 at 11:08 a.m.
      How is Professor Hamermesh defining beauty?
    • Quote 2
      Jen said on March 29, 2012 at 3:10 p.m.
      Ah, who said Perry had "looks" to begin with? Please.
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