Friday, March 6, 2009

Negative effects of Palin's attractiveness

Psychologists Nathan Heflick and Jamie Goldenberg of the University of South Florida studied the effects of Gov. Sarah Palin's attractiveness on the presidential campaign. They conducted the study after she was nominated as the Vice Presidential candidate of the Republican ticket, before she fell apart in media interviews. To spoil the conclusions for you, Palin's attractiveness did negatively affect perceptions of her:
"It wasn’t her appearance per se” that soured people on Palin, Heflick said in an interview. “It was the effect her appearance had on their perception of her competence and humanity. Those variables made people less likely to vote for her.” ...

So at least in this sample, it was Republicans and independents who were internally debating Palin’s suitability for the job. The study suggests that their confidence in her abilities may have decreased the more they focused on her looks — and thus, in feminist terms, objectified her.

You can read about the study's methodology in the article. It's a sad world, however, where the attractiveness of a male candidate potrays youth and vitality (i.e., JFK and Obama) and, to the extent this study is generalizable, the attractiveness of a female candidate portrays incompetence.

(h/t Ben Smith)

1 comment:

Darren Staley said...

I'm not sure I agree with this finding at all. Palin had Republican pundits salivating in the short run.

She made conservative men I know horny (she's hot and loves hunting and tax cuts!) and gave conservative women the sense that an attractive, faithful, working mother could make it to the top in this country.

While I do not have the numbers in front of me, but I followed pretty closely and the initial Palin announcment gave McCain a huge bump, bringing the race close to even.

It was only after the interviews that revealed Palin as, to put it mildly, less than ready for the national stage, and the follow-up refusal to answer any questions that soured people on her. Oh, and the revelations of lies (bridge to nowhere flip-flop) and corruption (Troopergate).

Sarah Palin did a huge disservice to feminism by accepting a job that she was in now way qualified for, intellectually speaking at least.