Contributor Post Created with Sketch. 2016: Do Looks Matter?

 

130916112847-29-missamerica-0916-horizontal-galleryOver the course of the next year, you’re going to hear plenty of theories as to what guarantees victory in a president election.

For example, there’s the matter of candidates’ height — the premise being that the taller contender always wins. A few years ago, researchers at Texas Tech took a look at this and decided there was something to it — something having to do with voters and their primordial instincts.

The problem is that “caveman politics” hasn’t held up in the Information Age. In 2012, Mitt Romney was a shade taller than Barack Obama. In 2000, Al Gore stood higher (and sighed louder) than George W. Bush. Bush also was lesser in physical stature in 2004 (4-1/2 inches lower than John Kerry), but again he debunked the theory.

What then should we be looking at?

I’d go with youth. Dating back to Bill Clinton in 1992, the younger of the two candidates has earned more popular votes (yes, this applies to Gore in 2000) — which doesn’t bode well for Hillary Clinton, presuming she’s a 69-year-old Democratic nominee a year from this November.

Or, if you prefer, another variable: looks.

I refer you to this Huffington Post column that rationalizes why 2016’s winner will be…Marco Rubio. Why? for a lot of reasons you might guess: the Florida senator is young, ethnic, a genuine conservative, and knows his foreign policy.

Plus this — the idea that the national vote truly is a beauty contest:

The effects of physical looks on presidential elections are well documented. The most famous example was 1960, when John F. Kennedy was perceived by television viewers to have beaten Nixon in their presidential debate and radio listeners said Nixon won. Data confirms the importance of looks. Researchers at Princeton University found that the candidate voted as more competent-looking went on to win in 69% of the gubernatorial races and 72% of the Senate races. A University of California study quantified the effect of attractiveness at a 13% vote swing.

Marco Rubio is a young, handsome, attractive candidate who physically exudes a leader presence. For all the importance of money and policy on the outcome of elections, data seems to indicate that looks count for a whole lot. This will carry Rubio through the primary and help him beat Hilary Clinton in the general election

I’ll leave it to you to figure why this didn’t work for Mitt Romney . . .

Meanwhile, some numbers:

The 2016 presidential election marks the 9th such “change” contest over the past century — an open seat up for grabs.

I won’t bother trying to pick the winner of a beauty contest between, say, Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey.

But to recap how age and height worked out with regard to the victor:

2008: Obama — younger and taller

2000: George W. Bush — older and shorter

1988: George H.W. Bush — older and taller

1968: Nixon — younger and taller

1960: John F. Kennedy — younger and taller

1952: Dwight Eisenhower — older and taller

1928: Herbert Hoover — older and taller

1920: Warren Harding — older and taller

Height prevails seven out of eight times. Youth won out three times.

The bottom line: whatever factor you want to cook up — looks, age, height, weight, educational pedigree, astrological sign, numbers of vowels and consonants in a last name — there’s only one candidate you want to be in a presidential contest. That would be George Washington. He stood 6’2,″ essentially ran unopposed and twice swept the Electoral College.

Good luck messing with the formula.

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  1. Patrick McClure Coolidge

    http://ricochet.com/presidential-election-and-the-ugliness-factor/

    Shorter than this post, but essentially the same question from Metalheaddoc.

    • #1
    • May 21, 2015, at 11:35 AM PDT
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  2. EThompson Inactive

    What then should we be looking at?

    I’d go with youth. Dating back to Bill Clinton in 1992, the younger of the two candidates has earned more popular votes (yes, this applies to Gore in 2000) — which doesn’t bode well for Hillary Clinton, presuming she’s a 69-year-old Democratic nominee a year from this November.

    Or, if you prefer, another variable: looks.

    I refer you to this Huffington Post column that rationalizes why 2016’s winner will be…Marco Rubio. Why? for a lot of reasons you might guess: the Florida senator is young, ethnic, a genuine conservative, and knows his foreign policy.

    I agree with this completely but don’t underestimate the special appeal of “victim status.” I am referring, of course, to the millions of oppressed and disenfranchised American women who suffer so in this misogynistic country don’t you know…

    Hillary is milking this culturally popular myth for all it’s worth. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times from intelligent people: “It’s important we elect a woman president.” (Except if she is running against an ethnic minority because race trumps gender every time.)

    • #2
    • May 21, 2015, at 11:37 AM PDT
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  3. Guruforhire Member

    Yes, absolutely. The science is clear: men gain unlimited benefits from being more attractive. Business knows this, and my MBA professor was frank about this. The graph is up and to the right indefinitely.

    More attractive people are considered more credible. All else being equal more attractive man wins.

    Women gain until a point, but can be too attractive to be taken seriously.

    • #3
    • May 21, 2015, at 12:08 PM PDT
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  4. Southern Pessimist Member

    I think likeability is the most important factor. Height and other aspects of appearance are certainly important but I think the most likable candidate wins. Obama seemed very likable in 2008. That veneer had worn off by 2012 but there was enough charm and left over good will for the first black president that he squeaked by. So far for me Rubio seems the most likable but I don’t know that he is significantly more handsome than others.

    • #4
    • May 21, 2015, at 12:47 PM PDT
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  5. Barfly Member

    I suggest a more accurate factor is self-identification. The unconscious question the lemmings ask is “Who do you want to be?” or for the opposite sex of the candidate, “Who do you want to be with?”

    • #5
    • May 21, 2015, at 6:30 PM PDT
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  6. Jim Kearney Contributor

    These are all important considerations. Self-identification certainly helped do Romney in. It’s key to HRC’s game plan. Stoke gender identity into a voting block as monolithic as Obama’s racial identifiers.

    Writers — and many others — emphasize the seen and not enough the heard. Voices are important, too. This helped Obama, hurt Newt, and helps candidates regionally while sometimes hurting them nationally.

    Candidates underestimate the intensive nature of media scrutiny, and the power of the instant replay. An clandestine audiotape of Romney also contributed to his demise. Howard Dean’s whoop. Ed Muskie’s tears. Rick Perry’s silence. Candidates can be handsome, articulate, and confident until they’re caught in a fleeting false moment. The performer must remain in complete command of his tool.

    Personal strength, character, confidence, and depth must lock into always-on mode, along with enough humility to know when your tired and may just not be able to summon the perfect turn-of-phrase.

    On the debate stag,e candidates must have more than catch phrases at the ready. The performer’s preparation must anticipate all eventualities. Romney won the first debate, but when Obama bullied him on Benghazi, and Candy Crowley morphed from ref to tag team partner, Romney was staggered. His always gentlemanly demeanor played as weakness. It was a moment for his inner fighter to emerge, and he wasn’t there.

    In primaries, candidates need to emotionally motivate supporters without creating images, clips and bites for the opponent to use in the general. I wish voters were more issue-savvy, but elections turn on people who vote one day then soak themselves in pop culture for the next 1460.

    • #6
    • May 22, 2015, at 7:17 AM PDT
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  7. Barfly Member

    Jim Kearney:…

    The performer’s preparation must anticipate all eventualities. Romney won the first debate, but when Obama bullied him on Benghazi, and Candy Crowley morphed from ref to tag team partner, Romney was staggered. His always gentlemanly demeanor played as weakness. It was a moment for his inner fighter to emerge, and he wasn’t there.

    Yes, that’s what happened in the debates. Romney’s fervent supporters told us over and over “he’s such a good man!” They never really answered “Good for what, precisely?”

    Romney came prepared for the first engagement, it’s obvious in hindsight he’d received good counsel from someone with psychological insight. A really good man would have known the whole left would strike back, and been ready. When mortally challenged, Romney wasn’t there. I say, rather, his “gentlemanly demeanor” is only the polite face of weakness. He doesn’t contain a fighter, how could one emerge? He would have made a poor president, notwithstanding the eventual disaster that we elected a sociopath instead.

    Mitt Romney failed us.

    • #7
    • May 22, 2015, at 4:13 PM PDT
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  8. Barfly Member

    Jim Kearney:

    … In primaries, candidates need to emotionally motivate supporters without creating images, clips and bites for the opponent to use in the general. I wish voters were more issue-savvy, but elections turn on people who vote one day then soak themselves in pop culture for the next 1460.

    For the malleable masses, the lemmings I’m calling them at the moment, pop culture is the chief external influence. Self-image, not self-interest, drives all but the best and worst few of us. The mass of us, whose intellect-and-morality-together clusters about the mean, will follow their idealized self-image. That is actually a profound insight, Jim.

    “Men want to be him. Women want to be with him.” Ian Fleming’s self-sendup of James Bond in his comedy Casino Royale has devolved into Mike Myers. That’s where the lemmings’ self-image is today.

    [Later: forgive my invented memory of the line not from Casino Royale. It’s still true.]

    • #8
    • May 22, 2015, at 4:20 PM PDT
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