Independents (Low-Information Voters) Most Influenced By Superficial Considerations

by Ben Hoffman

As long as there has been democratic government, skeptics have worried that citizens would base their choices and their votes on superficial considerations. A series of recent studies seems to validate these fears, suggesting that candidates who merely look more capable or attractive perform better in elections.

In this article, we examine the underlying process behind the appearance effect. Specifically, we test whether the effect of appearance is more pronounced among those who know little about politics but are exposed to visual images of candidates. To do so, we combine appearance-based assessments of U.S. Senate and gubernatorial candidates with individual-level survey data measuring vote intent, political knowledge, and television exposure. Confirming long-standing concerns about image and television, we find that appealing-looking politicians benefit disproportionately from television exposure, primarily among less knowledgeable individuals.


Independents are also most likely to jump on the bandwagon if one candidate looks like a sure winner. These low information voters decide our elections. Right-wing propaganda convinced them that spending was out of control and that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was a massive socialistic program. Any chance of winning back control of Congress next year must target these low-information voters. We don’t need to lie (as Republicans do). All we need to do is get the word out.

One Comment to “Independents (Low-Information Voters) Most Influenced By Superficial Considerations”

  1. “The strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose.”

    BARACK OBAMA, press conference, Feb. 9, 2009

    — In service of a greater purpose —– for all world citizens ….
    As long as we have the old-boys-network in place…. nothing will change… Call me a pessimist or a realist… discuss..

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