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Facing the voters : the potential impact of ballot paper photographs in British elections

Johns, Robert and Shephard, Mark Peter (2011) Facing the voters : the potential impact of ballot paper photographs in British elections. Political Studies, 59 (3). pp. 636-658. ISSN 0032-3217

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Abstract

A growing body of literature has found that photographs of politicians can influence electoral preferences. In this article we assess whether candidates rating higher on electoral attractiveness perform better in a series of hypothetical elections, and whether their advantage is magnified when their appearance is printed not only on campaign materials but also on ballot papers. We find that candidate appearance only had a significant impact on vote choice when photographs were printed on ballot papers, and even then there was an impact on only some of the elections, notably those pitting male against female candidates. Photographs had most impact on the choices of those least interested in politics and least likely to vote, and magnified a tendency (among voters of all ages) to favour younger candidates and to penalise older candidates. Findings suggest that the addition of photographs to ballot papers could affect the outcomes of marginal British constituency races.