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Liberal Scholars Are Better Looking

The right may have the prettiest politicians, but the left has more alluring academics.
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

For liberals reeling from the November election, a January news item only added insult to injury. It described research that found conservative politicians in the United States, Europe, and Australia are, on average, better looking than their left-leaning counterparts.

Ouch. But now, another new study finds that, for people in a different line of work, the opposite is true.

An analysis of 400 authors and academics found more attractive ones were more likely to write for left-leaning journals.

In the journal Personality and Individual Differences,Jan-Erik Lönnqvist of the Swedish School of Social Science notes that there is a plausible case to be that better-looking people are more likely to vote for right-wing politicians. “Attractive people earn more money,” he writes, “and the more money people earn, the more likely they are to oppose redistribution.”

On the other hand, he writes, political figures could be unique in this regard. Perhaps conservative voters, for whatever reason, are more swayed by looks than their liberal counterparts.

To get a sense of which explanation is more likely, Lönnqvist decided to focus on academics and writers — people whose levels of education and social status are roughly comparable to politicians. His associates identified the 100 most recent authors in two left-leaning journals — the New York Review of Books and Humanist magazine — and two right-leaning ones, First Things and the Claremont Review of Books.

Five research assistants rated the portrait photographs of each author, indicating on a one-to-nine scale how attractive they found the person, and how well-groomed they found him or her to be.

The result: “More physically attractive scholars were more likely to appear in left-leaning journals,” Lönnqvist writes, “whereas better groomed scholars were more likely to appear in right-learning journals.”

This suggests the conservative-is-beautiful paradigm is clearly not applicable across the board. Rather, he considers it more likely that “candidates on the right are more strongly rewarded for good looks.”

If so, Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau are clearly outliers.