Which political candidate do people vote for?

With the recent developments in media, politicians are under scrutiny now more than ever. Media makes it possible to reach a wider audience and inform them on political candidates running for office. Because of this, one might argue that voting behaviors have changed. We have so much more information to consider when picking a candidate to vote for. The existence of television makes it possible for voters to consider the charisma and personality that candidates are now able to convey. Because of this, it has been pointed out that voters care more about politicians’ personalities. However, Hayes (2009) found that there is no difference in the importance of personality, compared to when there was no TV. Personality is certainly imperative, though it has not become more important with the emergence of new forms of media.

Unfortunately, most of the world leaders are still men. While it can definitely be stated that women still have less opportunities when it comes to participating in elections, gender bias in voting still facilitates men. When people have to evaluate candidates based on competence and dominance, men are more likely to be judged positively in this regard (Chiao, Bowman, & Gill, 2008). The same researchers also found that men were more likely to be voted for if they appeared approachable, whereas for female candidates, attractiveness played a major role.

Previous research has found that people infer personality characteristics from faces. These cues are also used in judging political candidates. For instance, when it comes to competence, the following facial features are positively regarded: “Faces became less round, the distance between the eyebrows and the eyes decreased, the cheekbones were higher, and the jaws became more angular”. Perceived facial competence is correlated with with election outcomes (Olivola, & Todorov, 2010).

Voice pitch
Using an experimental design, researchers found that people favored men with a lower voice pitch in a political setting. These men were perceived to be more dominant and attractive, which are considered positive traits for a politician. Furthermore, the favoritism of lower pitched increased if a candidate were to be selected in times of war. In this scenario, dominance becomes even more crucial to voters (Tigue, Borak, O’Connor, Schandl, & Feinberg, 2012).

In low-information settings, when the voter does not have substantive information, they might rely on other cues. For instance, they will consider stereotypes associated with outward appearance, such as skin color or gender. Women and African-Americans are more likely to be stereotyped than white (liberal) males. African-Americans were perceived to be more involved in minority issues, while women were considered to be concerned with honest government. (McDermott, 1998).

Candidate identification
Researchers found through a simulated mayoral election that voters preferred candidates they shared characteristics with. Women were more likely to vote for female candidates, African-Americans are more likely to African-American candidates, white males were more likely to vote for white, male candidates. They also found that ageism played a bigger role than sexism or racism (Sigelman, & Sigelman, 1982).

By looking at the personality traits of voters, researchers found that these have an indirect effect on voting behavior. Using the Big Five personality traits, they found that scoring high on certain traits meant they were more likely to vote for ideologies associated with these. Openness was linked with social liberalism, neuroticism was associated with political parties that protect against material and cultural challenges, and lastly, high agreeableness and low conscientiousness led to being more likely to vote for economic or social liberalism (Schoen, & Schumann, 2007).

Chiao, J. Y., Bowman, N. E., & Gill, H. (2008). The political gender gap: Gender bias in facial inferences that predict voting behavior. PLoS One3(10), e3666.

Hayes, D. (2009). Has television personalized voting behavior?. Political Behavior31(2), 231-260.

McDermott, M. L. (1998). Race and gender cues in low-information elections. Political Research Quarterly51(4), 895-918.

Olivola, C. Y., & Todorov, A. (2010). Elected in 100 milliseconds: Appearance-based trait inferences and voting. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior34(2), 83-110.

Schoen, H., & Schumann, S. (2007). Personality traits, partisan attitudes, and voting behavior. Evidence from Germany. Political psychology28(4), 471-498.

Sigelman, L., & Sigelman, C. K. (1982). Sexism, racism, and ageism in voting behavior: An experimental analysis. Social Psychology Quarterly, 263-269.

Tigue, C. C., Borak, D. J., O’Connor, J. J., Schandl, C., & Feinberg, D. R. (2012). Voice pitch influences voting behavior. Evolution and Human Behavior33(3), 210-216.


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