Research team

Media, Movements and Politics (M2P)


Elections, polarization, public opinion, political knowledge, political trust, preferential votes

Leadership is in the eye of the beholder: Studying the effect of appearance on personal electoral success. 01/04/2018 - 31/03/2019


Previous studies find that a number of factors lead to a politician receiving more preferential votes, such as a better position on the ballot list, political experience and socio-demographic factors such as gender or being part of an ethnic minority group. However, one possible determinant behind individual electoral success has been ignored in these studies; the appearance of candidates and the way this appearance influences evaluations on other traits such as charisma, competence and reliability, the so-called halo effect. In studies on preferential voting this more difficult to measure factor is never included. The aim of this project is to fill this gap in the current literature and investigate whether the appearance of candidates and its impact on perceived candidate traits, such as charisma, competence and reliability influence the number of preferential votes candidates obtain. In order to do so two studies will be conducted. In the first study, political candidates will be evaluated by respondents who are unfamiliar with them and these evaluations are subsequently linked to their electoral score in order to distillate the pure effect of appearance. In the second study, Belgian voters will evaluate the candidates, who have other knowledge about these candidates too. This allows me to also take into account the broader political context, test how appearance interacts with other information about candidates and investigate whether the halo-effect still holds when taking other factual information into account.


Research team(s)