Beauty of politicians plays an important role for German voters, study finds

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Beauty of politicians plays an important role for German voters, study finds

Sahra Wagenknecht (Left Party) and Cem Özdemir (Green Party). Photo: DPA.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the prettiest politician of them all? (Hint: not Chancellor Merkel)

Prior to Christian Lindner’s withdrawal from the “Jamaica coalition” Bundestag (German parliament) talks, the Free Democrats (FDP) leader enjoyed success in September's federal election.

Reviving the FDP after it embarrassingly crashed out of parliament in 2013, his party earned 10.7 percent in the last election after heavily relying on a campaign full of slick black-and-white photos of their young leader.

Now researchers have found that Lindner’s success can be partly attributed to his looks.

Sociologist Ulrich Rosar and his research team in Düsseldorf have recently presented their findings - that the relationship between a politician’s appearance and the votes they collect is "very substantial." 

Beauty of politicians plays an important role for German voters, study finds Christian Lindner (FDP). Photo: DPA

Rosar's team examined a total of 1,786 politicians for the study - each of them judged by a jury of two dozen men and women on an attractiveness scale ranging from zero (unattractive) to six (very attractive).

The results found that while a candidate’s familiarity and prominence was a top priority, second to that was beauty as an important decision criterion.

Looking at the lead candidates of parties, Christian Lindner took the top spot in the men’s ranking with 3.43 points. Meanwhile Sahra Wagenknecht, leader of the Left Party, lead the women's category with 4.08 points. Alternative for Germany’s (AfD) Alice Weidel scored 3.25 points, followed by Katrin Göring-Eckhard (2.58) of the Green Party. Further down the list was Cem Özdemir (2.13) also of the Green Party.

Social Democrats (SPD) leader Martin Schulz garnered 1.67 points whereas Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) trailed behind him with only 1.04 points. Alexander Gauland, the septuagenarian co-leader of the AfD, came in last place with 0.54 points.

Beauty of politicians plays an important role for German voters, study finds Alice Weidel (AfD). Photo: DPA

“Election decisions are made more often at short notice, with a simultaneous increase in the willingness to change one's mind," Rosar, head of the Faculty of Philosophy at Heinrich Heine University who’s been researching the relationship between physical attractiveness and electoral success for over a decade, told die Welt.

And in the absence of comprehensive and reliable information on complex political issues, election decisions can be influenced by "characteristics of the candidates unrelated to their roles."

In addition, Rosar says, people tend to mix aesthetic evaluations with ethical and intellectual ones. Beautiful people are generally ascribed more positive characteristics than less attractive people.

Co-author Sabrina Schöttle moreover defends the number of participants in the study (24), stating: "There is a consensus on attractiveness, which ensures that even relatively small groups achieve representative results."