How Important Are A Political Leader’s Looks?

how important are looks obama red br

Be honest. Most people like to give a rather pompous answer to this question as though the very suggestion of picking a leader by his or her appearance is beyond the realms of human possibility. And yet…surely that is tosh? People remarked endlessly about JFK’s looks in the 1960’s and clearly it had some bearing on his popularity.

In a UK general election the Labour leader Ed Miliband was mercilessly mocked for his constant awkward geekiness and general un-Obama-like coolness. Geek can be sweet…but for a political leader? Perhaps not.
Either he struggled to take a decent picture or the newspapers constantly sought out the most ridiculous looking images to represent him with. I suspect both. Clearly the partisan newsies understood that looks matter.

Ed Miliband and Wallace.

A real flipping corker (with charisma and charm) would get endless (and suitably distracting) front page press, which let’s face it, seems to be of more importance these days than substance.

Come on folks, we are human. We (mostly) use every sense given to us in judging people and things – and that includes our eyes does it not?

A lot of Sarah Palin’s supporters were famous for resolutely failing to name one decent policy she had and yet they promised to support her until the ends of time. Do you really think being attractive for these kinds of totally politically disinterested people, who would still place a vote come election day would not usefully plump up those numbers?


Am I talking nonsense? (It wouldn’t be the first time!) Yes, yes, policies…yadda yadda… but if the politician was a real looker…with a fairly decent brain and let’s say ONE populist policy say, health or immigration, wouldn’t that be the perfect equation to win ANY election?

The cherry on the top would be if they were also seen as ‘one of the people’ as opposed to the Old Boys Network…fuggedaboutit! They’d be in like Flynn, no?

So What Say You?

1. Hush Ed. Go take a nap. I think you’ve been overdoing it lately.

2. Yes, if I’m honest I could be swayed by a political looker.


(Political parties that wish to hire me for usage of my ‘Editor’s Election Win Equation,’ I’m here all week.)



52 thoughts on “How Important Are A Political Leader’s Looks?

  1. I don’t think that being good looking plays a huge role in how someone is perceived as much as grooming and personal hygiene play a role. Being well dressed and putting an effort into your hair etc goes a long way.

    It’s not so much about being pleasing to look at as it is being someone who respects themselves. When you are clearly someone who respects themselves, others respect you because of that. If you’re dumpy in appearance etc you clearly don’t respect yourself and neither will anyone else.

    It’s like the over weight cop who is wearing a uniform that is begging for mercy with scuffed up unpolished boots vs the fit cop with the nice hair cut and shiny boots. Who are you going to take seriously?

    I will agree that being blessed as a good looking human certainly helps, but I truly believe that the other parts outweigh the other.

  2. Hmm, a good one, and I tend to think that a good looking President would win hands over fist, unless he was totally thick. Women, (showing a serious loss of brain power here), go gaga over a good looking man in power (how embarrassing) and I think men respect good looking men in power, like dreaming they too, could be the President (and then tell themselves ‘if I wanted to be’) (again, how embarrassing)….

    So, yes, in our shallow world of braindead, deprived of oxygen people, it would seem that looks take precedence over real intelligence. Hence the idiots that run the two loudest Countries in the world and are screwing up so badly.

    Personally, I wouldn’t call them handsome, but they have a certain way of delivering their speeches which makes the crowds go ga ga. In my books, not nearly enough to run a Country.

    I mean a ‘selfie’ at one of the worlds’ Icon’s funerals? (Nelson Mandela). How much more stupid and pathetic do you have to be? the level of interest in reality is non existent.

      1. Thanks Ed….have you noticed I’m blogging about mental health now and have MUCH more followers? It’s a very touchy subject and needs talking about. The stigma surrounding mental health is huge, so if I can do anything to bring home the fact that you are not brain dead if you have a mental illness then I’m trying to do so. Thoughts? I so value your opinion as you know x x

      2. Of course I noticed and have read and responded to a few of them. I even saw how you dispatched a naysayer on You Tube lol! It seems you have found your niche and are finding your audience, good for you! Proud of you for sticking at it when sometimes it felt like a bit of a slog. The thing to keep doing is keep writing and growing, keep up the momentum.

  3. I’ll admit my shallowness..looks do matter. Obama looked great- it was a huge plus for him. To me though, voice matters ..when Hillary gets going, her voice sounds so grating that it’s easy to imagine her berating and hen pecking Bill.. Ted Cruz is a highly educated person, but his voice is almost cartoonish. Looks are important, voice even more so, but in the final analysis, what’s between the ears (and in their heart) matters most to me.

    1. Absolutely. I’ve had to turn the TV down or off to avoid certain timbres of voice. I’m not sure if I could vote for 4 years of someone with a high squeak for a voice or adenoidal sounding as Ed Miliband was. They would have be exceptional and exceptional anything is rare these days. I’d like to think that also in the final analysis after enjoying the eye or ear candy I’d choose the right person too.

  4. I wish I could disagree with you but I can’t. The only question I would ask is what connection we make between what we find attractive and what a person stands for? I never found Sarah Palin attractive,for example or Margaret Thatcher for that matter. Both were too conventionally bourgeois for my taste.

    1. Right? I can’t believe more parties aren’t hot-housing political hunks and hunkesses as we speak.
      I think Margaret Thatchers success was down that particular time in history and her own very rare force of power of course, so for me looks didn’t come into it, at least not from a ‘sexpot’ point of view. Although she did have both speech and dress coaches to make her more palatable.
      Sarah Palin? One thing about Sarah Palin was that she LOOKED like a voter (some would say she also sounded like her typical constituent i.e clueless). This is attractive to us when we see someone who appears to be one of us as opposed to the old network. That was her ticket I believe ‘down home, normal Mom.’ The fact that she was physically attractive didn’t hurt either.

  5. I…don’t know. I certainly think that looks matter in many different areas of life. Isn’t that why we make an extra effort to look presentable before an interview? And I think there are several scientific reports that show people who viewed pictures of more and less attractive people were more likely to find the attractive people likeable and trustworthy.

    That said, I think if you put an attractive half-wit up against an ugmo with political savvy and decent policy, the ugmo would win. That’s without taking party allegiance and the like into things. I hope (desperately) that despite the media’s preoccupation with looks and wardrobe, that’s not what decides elections.

    Of course, did you watch Love Actually? Hugh Grant as PM. Mmmm 😉

      1. Oh goodness! That does change things. How can he just keep getting better with age? I wonder – if that’s true and he won – would he always wonder if it was because of his looks?

    1. Who the articulated lorry is Bernie Sanders? Clearly I have been working too hard and ignoring the zeitgeist. Is he running for pres? I will look up his pic – I’m guessing from your words I won’t be saving it as a screensaver! 🙂

      1. Okay… I see. 🙂 He’s alright I guess, just old which in today’s world amounts to the same thing! Never understood how older people are sidelined in any other profession other than politrics.

      2. thing is, his face and personality are are a total match. He’s like an east coast Jew or something, a real curmudgeon, a straight talker and an independent, a declared Socialist. He’s the perfect American President – from my and many of my fellow Canucks’ POV – and he hasn’t got a snowball’s chance in Hell.

      3. He SAID he would test the waters first, make sure there really was an appetite for trying to deal with inequality, EXPANDING the social safety net, and he’s in so he must have found some. I think he’ll be happy if he can just increase ‘Murrikens’ awareness that there even IS another viewpoint.

      4. no doubt. I wonder if they’ll shut him out of the debates. They did with Nader, they somehow declared the debates to be for the two big parties and shut the independents out.

  6. In today’s visual world with 24/7 news tv and internet video I would most definitely say yes, looks do matter in elections. To go back a bit further, I believe John F Kennedy was actually quite far behind Nixon in the polls until their first televised debate….

  7. I would like to say that looks are not important, but I’m guilty of judging politicians by their looks. My dad, on the other hand, is adept at focusing on politicians’ track records rather than on their looks. This is a good food for thought. Thanks.

    1. Thanks Arria, I have a suspicion that this is biased towards women because the leaders are usually men, (leaving aside our gay brethren for a minute).
      I wonder how your Pops would respond if the potential leader was an absolute corker and female? Yes he would look at her track record but would he be 100% totally resistant to being influenced by her looks I wonder.

      1. Hmmm. Perhaps that bias applies to me. My dad, I don’t think so. He follows both Filipino (we’re born Filipinos) and Canadian politics (we’re Canadians) closely. There are plenty of female politicians in the Philippines; some of them are good-looking, some of them are not. I’m not that proud of the Philippines’ government because of the—ahem—frequent corruption scandals, so my dad focuses on their track records more intensely. Here in Canada, on the other hand, there are some female politicians, yes, but I agree that they are mostly held by males. I’m also not too satisfied with the way voting works here. We go to the voting stations and I don’t know more than half of the names of the candidates because they don’t really publicize their platforms that effectively. So I think that rather than appearances, familiar names and past track records are more important than my dad because he literally don’t know most of the faces of the politicians here.

      2. Indeed. I agree that this issue differs from culture to culture. Anyway, I really enjoyed thinking about the question you presented in this post. It made my brain work (mind exercise!). 😉

        I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts. Cheers.

        P.S. I apologize for the numerous typos in my previous comment. I’m ashamed. I really should stop using my phone to comment. Anyway, it’s nice discussing with you.

  8. My first reaction is to say, “Definitely, yes, good looks make a difference.” but if that were true, how in HE double elbow did our current president get elected even once?

  9. It’s interesting that you bring this up because I took a course in Persuasion this past semester as part of my M.A. According to my text, studies have found that attractiveness actually enhances persuasion because it can focus attention on the speaker and because listeners then associate good feelings with that speaker. Attractiveness can help in the formation of attitudes, to capture attention, when an audience is particularly low involvement (or not using a whole lot of “brain power” to make a decision)…But it is not necessarily something that continues to affect persuasion in the long run; it’s short term. Charisma, on the other hand, are personal qualities of the individual. I think, then, that physical attractiveness influences us in ways we cannot necessarily point to, but we can more easily identify that we like someone’s personality. I don’t think we will ever admit (though some might!) that we voted for someone or like a particular politician because we find them attractive. But it can be a factor.

    1. Really interesting. I can totally see how a looker can grab the first battles (in a political campaign) but needs charisma plus other traits to win the war ultimately…
      although… having said that, in today’s world I’m still skeptical, because maybe all the looker who is already winning would have to do is tread water and just wait for the opposing side to mess up.

      Also, one could see this persuasion theory at work in school. Whenever we had a good looking teacher, the class was always willingly attended!

      1. I have to agree. It’s not good if someone “wins” an election simply because they were patient enough to let someone else mess up. And, you can see it in school; I agree. I think it tends to be more present in grade school–junior high and high school–though, since there are other factors involved in higher education.

  10. I actually think I’d be more suspicious of a looker who wanted to go for political office. You want your politicians serious, not glamorous. So they might have to sway me with some policies with real substance so I knew it wasn’t just a massive ego trip. That’s probably beauty-ist or something but as we’ve mentioned on here before, most of us feel like the world already belongs to the pretty ones anyway…;)

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