Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 4 > Issue 3

Candidate Faces and Election Outcomes: Is the Face–Vote Correlation Caused by Candidate Selection?

  • Matthew D. Atkinson 1
  • Ryan D. Enos 2
  • Seth J. Hill 3

[1]Matthew D. Atkinson, Department of Political Science, University of California, USA, matthewa@ucla.edu [2]Ryan D. Enos, Department of Political Science, University of California, USA, renos@ucla.edu [3]Seth J. Hill, Department of Political Science, University of California, USA, sjhill@ucla.edu


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Table of contents

Candidate Faces and Elections
Measuring Facial Competence
The Selection of Candidate Faces to Election Contests
Individual Voter Response to Candidate Faces
Challenger Effects by Contest

Quarterly Journal of Political Science

(Vol 4, Issue 3, 2009, pp 229-249)

DOI: 10.1561/100.00008062


We estimate the effect of candidate appearance on vote choice in congressional elections using an original survey instrument. Based on estimates of the facial competence of 972 congressional candidates, we show that in more competitive races the out-party tends to run candidates with higher quality faces. We estimate the direct effect of face on vote choice when controlling for the competitiveness of the contest and for individual partisanship. Combining survey data with our facial quality scores and a measure of contest competitiveness, we find a face quality effect for Senate challengers of about 4 points for independent voters and 1–3 points for partisans. While we estimate face effects that could potentially matter in close elections, we find that the challenging candidate's face is never the difference between a challenger and incumbent victory in all 99 Senate elections in our study.

Data Files

Replication Data | 100.00008062_supp.zip (ZIP),

This file contains the data that is required to replicate the data on your own system.

DOI: 10.1561/100.00008062_supp


Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Volume 5 Issue 1, 10.1561/100.00080621