Women running for top offices need to appear competent and attractive, according to a new study. For male candidates, seeming competent may be enough.
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer
It’s a finding that could help justify heavy spending on makeup and wardrobe for Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, while at the same time raising questions about the need for a man like John Edwards to invest in a costly haircut.
“What we found was quite startling,” said Joan Y. Chiao of Northwestern University’s psychology department.
For male candidates, the only thing that mattered to male voters was competence, while female voters preferred men who seemed both competent and approachable.
But for “female candidates for a hypothetical election for the United States presidency, both male and female voters were more likely to vote for candidates that were both competent and attractive,” Chiao said in a telephone interview.
“Neither trait (alone) was sufficient to predict whether a person was going to vote for that candidate,” she added. Chiao’s findings are being published online by the journal PLoS ONE.
“For female candidates, it really matters if they’re perceived as competent and perceived as attractive. Those two qualities are sort of twin predictors of whether or not someone is going to be more or less likely to vote for them,” Chiao stressed.
“There are a lot of potential theories,” she said. Most likely may be the way people choose friends and mates.