There are a couple of things you can expect at every CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) weekend or large conservative gathering. Someone will say or do something ridiculously racist, a RINO will try to sharpen his horns, and Ann Coulter will say something over the top that will get liberals angry, and put her 19-year-old boy-toy fans into an Axe Body Spray-level frenzy. This weekend was no different. Coulter did her usual shtick proclaiming that conservatives are hotter than liberals and set tongues wagging about how hot girls are always conservative
Don’t forget: this is the party against contraception.
While Coulter is a political shock jock and flamethrower this is one instance where she was right. A new research study shows that conservatives are better looking than liberals …. it also shows they’re dumber too.
Conservatives have been beating the drum that they’re “prettier” than liberals for years now, with literally dozens of blogs, and occasional utterances by the likes of Rush Limbaugh promoting this idea. So the political scientist in me got to thinking: Physical appearance has been shown to influence happiness, income and career choice, why not political leanings? I got in touch with Niclas Berggren of Sweden’s Ratio Institute, where he and his colleagues had recently published a paper entitled “The Right Look: Conservative Politicians Look Better And Voters Reward It” that analyzed the impact physical attractiveness has on a politician’s success.
Using data from Finland, France, the United States and Australia voters were tested for political leanings then asked to rank the attractiveness of a collection of politicians that they didn’t know (Photos of elected officials were used from different countries to ensure voters had no hint as to who they were looking at). Then they controlled for a lot of factors like income, intelligence, age and even style of dress in the photos along with an analysis of perceived candidate traits like competence, intelligence and leadership. The results? Ann Coulter would be proud … well … sort of:
“The use of beauty as a cue for ideology provides another explanation for why parties on the right are more likely to attract better looking candidates: as potential right-party candidates have more to gain from an attractive appearance, at least in low-information elections, those with better looks have stronger incentives to venture into politics.”
In layman’s terms: All politicians are pretty, but being pretty helps you more amongst conservative voters than liberal voters, and helps you more with uninformed voters than smart voters. The pretty part, in and of itself, isn’t all that surprising. The guy who’s been told he was gorgeous since he was 15 is going to be confident and is more likely to run for student body president, then state senate, then mayor then Congress than the chubby guy who looks like the before picture in a Proactiv commercial.
The catch is that being pretty matters more to conservative voters. The research shows that even if you are dealing with equally attractive candidates the conservative gets more of a boost from his constituents for his dashing good looks and hair than the liberal. Of course this begs the question: why do the conservatives seem to attract more good looking people to begin with? The Swiss have an answer for that one too.
“As to why parties on the right field better-looking candidates than parties on the left, we suggest that beautiful people are more inclined to be conservative. This is both because beauty is positively related to earnings and because beautiful people are treated better throughout life and tend to see the world as a just place.”
Again, let’s go back to the hot guy who’s been Freshman, Sophmore, Junior and Senior prom king. He could be the nicest hardest working person in the world, but the fact remains that all things being equal, most things in life have come just a little bit easier for him. When you get the benefit of the doubt from cops, when teachers let you slide, when loan officers just wanna shake your hand you’re much more likely to think the world is fair, and that you get by on your own merits, as opposed to structural or institutional benefits. And it’s that kind of attitude which would have you tip-toeing to the conservative side faster than you can say Young John McCain.
Before all you liberals out there start getting enraged, remember the second part of the results. The value of good looks for conservatives wears off the more informed the public is about the election. So dumb conservatives will vote for someone because he or she looks good, but smart conservatives are less swayed by a square jaw and good hair (good luck, Mitt). Plus in general liberals love it if you’re pretty but it’s more important to them that you can do the job. So low-information conservatives love a pretty dummy and liberals love pretty – but not enough to vote an airhead into office. If you conservatives are mad that you’ve been tagged shallow fools, well, the Swiss aren’t the only researchers to come to this conclusion in the last 6 months.
So in the end, Ann Coulter wins out. She can be in the vanguard of a group of super-sexy GOP candidates that are the heartthrobs of dummies all across the GOP primary states. But she ought to remember that once we move into the general election it’s ideas and not looks that will win more hearts. Which means that Newt and Ron Paul still have a chance to beat Obama; and isn’t that what’s really important to the Republicans this year anyway?
This article originally appeared online at Politic365.com.