Candidate image and electoral preference in Britain

Mark Shephard, R.A. Johns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


The UK Electoral Commission has recommended pilot testing of ballot papers printed with photographs of the candidates. In the light of US studies showing that voters make judgements about politicians based on appearance, and that these judgements can influence vote, we conducted an experiment to explore the potential impact of candidate appearance on voting behaviour in Britain. Our findings indicate that, even controlling for the partisanship of both the MP and the respondent, trait evaluations based on appearance are significant and, in the case of 'warmth' traits like likeability and caring, powerful predictors of probability to vote. We find little evidence of electoral advantage for those candidates who 'trespass' on traits associated with the opposing party; in general, the traits rewarded in candidates vary little according to the partisanship of either the candidate or the respondent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)324-349
Number of pages26
JournalBritish Politics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2008


  • candidate image
  • trait attribution
  • candidate evaluation
  • British elections
  • ballot design


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