“Good Looking” Is Bad Publicity

by Teresa Lu

We all heard about Obama’s recent faux pas with California attorney general Kamala Harris, him describing her as “by far the best-looking attorney general in the country.” Some of us were turned off, others didn’t think it was such a big deal. Amongst all these opinions, is there actual evidence that telling a female politician how good she looks is bad for her career? 

Yes, there is! A recent survey done by the Name It, Change It campaign shows a direct correlation between focus on physical appearance and a negative professional image.

In a hypothetical race for Congress between candidates “Jane Smith” and “Dan Jones”, surveyors were asked to read each their bios and vote for the one they preferred. Both candidates had similar backgrounds. Jane came out on top, 49-48.

Next, they were given a story about Jane with no description of her physical appearance. Her votes stay pretty much the same. In a second version of the story, there is a neutral description of her appearance. It put her 5 points behind Dan. The third version contains a positive description. 13 points behind. In the fourth version, a negative description – again, 13 points behind. 

As you can see, any type of description of Jane’s looks makes her votes tumble. Moral of the story? Focusing on a female candidate’s professional merits instead of her appearance would probably prevent a lot of damage to her career. We should all try to do that. She is helping to run our country, after all. 


via Mother Jones
images via Salon, Mother Jones

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