Well, who can resist this one?
I don’t have the strength to put up a fight, at this point. Empirical research, it seems, indicates that your anecdotal impression is accurate. Conservatives really are better-looking than liberals.
Of course, this turns out to mean conservatives are privileged and conservatism is shallow. How could it mean anything else? In the projects of the progressive left, all of life has to be experienced as much like high school as possible.
Washington Post‘s Ana Swanson, with the proposition:
A recently published study in the Journal of Public Economics concludes that the attractiveness of a candidate does correlate with their politics. They find that politicians on the right are more good looking in Europe, the United States and Australia.
As an aside, it’s hard not to love the facts that (a) this study was done at all, and (b) the Journal of Public Economics published it.
Swanson continues, as night follows day:
The study shows correlation, not causation, but the researchers float a simple economic explanation for why this might happen. Numerous studies have shown that good-looking people are likely to earn more, and that people who earn more are typically more opposed to redistributive policies, like the progressive taxes and welfare programs favored by the left.
The researchers also offer a more general psychological explanation for the trend: That good-looking people are often treated better than others, and thus see the world as a more just place. Past studies have found that the more attractive people believe themselves to be, the lower their preference for egalitarianism, a value typically associated with the political left.
So there you have it. The hot-running, good-looking kids are privileged and don’t want to share with the homely, awkward kids.
The research team did turn up a few interesting things. The “beauty advantage” was smallest in the United States, it seems. Finland was rather astonishingly affected by the politics of beauty (41% advantage for the better-looking), whereas the advantage declined to 14% in the U.S. (A polity that elects Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, and nominates Walter Mondale and Bob Dole, does have some explaining to do, beauty-politics-wise.)
Swanson concludes by mentioning something a lot of people have probably done when watching both talking heads and politicians on the TV news channel shows:
The researchers also suggest that voters correctly see candidates who are more good looking as more likely to be conservative. When voters don’t know much about candidates, they tend to use beauty as a cue for ideology.
If the comments at political websites are anything to go by, people really do have this mental bias.
The difference between conservatives and liberals isn’t that conservatives are overly concerned with an attractive appearance, however. It’s more that conservatives don’t see homeliness or unkemptness as positive signs of seriousness and virtue. Liberals seem to be more apt to consciously cultivate that attitude. Whether it’s counterintuitive or not is in the eye of the beholder. I haven’t found it to be very predictive, one way or the other.
One thing we can say about the whole beauty thing. It’s a pretty straightforward phenomenon. In its own realm and its own right, it rarely operates counterintuitively.