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Candidate image and electoral preference in Britain

Shephard, Mark and Johns, R.A. (2008) Candidate image and electoral preference in Britain. British Politics, 3 (3). pp. 324-349. ISSN 1746-918X

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The UK Electoral Commission has recommended pilot testing of ballot papers printed with photographs of the candidates. In the light of US studies showing that voters make judgements about politicians based on appearance, and that these judgements can influence vote, we conducted an experiment to explore the potential impact of candidate appearance on voting behaviour in Britain. Our findings indicate that, even controlling for the partisanship of both the MP and the respondent, trait evaluations based on appearance are significant and, in the case of 'warmth' traits like likeability and caring, powerful predictors of probability to vote. We find little evidence of electoral advantage for those candidates who 'trespass' on traits associated with the opposing party; in general, the traits rewarded in candidates vary little according to the partisanship of either the candidate or the respondent.