Stanford University

Facial similarity between voters and candidates causes influence

Bailenson, J.N., Iyengar, S., Yee, N., & Collins, N. (2008). Facial similarity between voters and candidates causes influence. Public Opinion Quarterly, 72 (5), 935-961.

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Abstract

Social science research demonstrates that people are drawn to others perceived as similar. We extend this finding to political candidates by comparing the relative effects of candidate familiarity as well as partisan, issue, gender, and facial similarity on voters’ evaluations of candidates. Using morphing software, we created tailored facial images of various political candidates whose faces became subtly similar to over 1000 voters across the United States. Evidence across three studies in separate elections over a period of three years suggests that even in high-profile elections, voters base their decisions partly on facial similarity.

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