Can Hot Politicians Win Elections Just by Being Attractive?

By  //  April 25, 2022

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Looks matter, that’s just an immutable law of the universe. In TV and social media, they matter even more. Just as a slight deformation can make the difference between a Hollywood superstar and a lead-role in late-night TV productions, a pleasant appearance can mean 1,000,000 extra votes –– and victory in national elections. 

I Need a Hero

It goes without saying that physical appearance is by no means the main determinant factor of political success, or beauty pageants would be Prime Ministers all over the world. The correlation between physical attractiveness and political success is also more intricate than it may seem.

The key determinant factor may not be beauty per se, but the confidence that comes with it, or the discipline, determination and hard work it could imply. 

This being said, research by the London School of Economics has proven a strong positive correlation between beauty and perceived competence, intelligence and trustworthiness in political candidates. Which are arguably the 3 main criteria validating an individual for a political position. 

In other words: all other things being equal, the better-looking candidate will win over its opponent. And thus ethics and esthetics intertwine.

The Hottest Politicians 

“In politics, nothing happens by accident. If something happens, you can bet it was planned.” The quote is by Franklin D. Roosevelt, who, as an insider, must have had a clear notion of how politics functioned. Is it a coincidence if Hillary Clinton looked 10 years younger ahead of her presidential campaign? Or if Silvio Berlusconi got a hair transplant? When it comes to controlling the most important governmental institutions, nothing is left to chance. 

To maximize their chances of success, candidates must project a well-groomed and tidy appearance –– with the notable exception of British PM Boris Johnson. Competition is also on the rise, and stakes are high. The hegemony of the audiovisual format is witnessing the rise of beauty standards all across the social spectrum. This may explain the popularity of world leaders such as Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and Spanish President Pedro Sanchez, both of which may be among the hottest politicians in history.

We might see many more like them in years to come. Whether this will be good for overall democratic functioning is a totally different matter. 

The Political-Correctness Arena

In practice, what does the rise of political sex-symbols mean for those who are not so well endowed? The elder and less genetically fortunate members of the political elite have taken note of the hard-pushing next-gen and the aforementioned relationship between good looks and perceived intelligence, competence and trustworthiness. That is why Joe Biden got a hair transplant, why Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin got fillers and Botox injections, and why former Brazilian PM Dilma Rousseff did too. All is fair in love and war. 

Politicians also compete with celebrities to attract social media audiences, mostly made up of young people. The “halo effect” and attractiveness premium is paramount, while being assessed in comparison with a highly attractive idol pool.  

Reason Prevails

Fortunately enough, reason still prevails over pure superficiality. Angela Merkel would never have become German Chancellor if it was otherwise. On the other hand, elegance and self-care are long-standing virtues for a reason. It is always preferable to have a good-looking representative, rather than someone who accords little importance to their self-image. Political leaders are role-models and set an example for everyone else, after all. 

With the current wave of worldwide populism on the rise, however, one cannot help but wonder if the advance of movie stars such as Ronald Reagan or Zelensky to the political frontline will not end up with celebrities such as Kanye West as the president of the United States, or Tik Tok celebrities setting policies of international importance. If this happens, the number of thumbs up in a post might substitute voting ballots, and there will be no difference between politics and propaganda.

About the Author

Antonio Nogueras Malpesa

Antonio was born in Seville, Spain, in 1995. A series of academic, linguistic and personal callings turned him into a 21st century nomad, living in Belgium, France, the UK, Italy, the US and Turkey. Passionate about cultures, art and writing, Antonio is a published author in Spain and a soon-to-be University Professor.