Republican Voters Prefer Candidates Who Have Conservative-Looking Faces: New Evidence From Exit Polls

Christopher Y. Olivola, Dustin Tingley, Alexander Todorov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Research shows people share common political facial stereotypes: They associate faces with political ideologies. Moreover, given that many voters rely on party affiliation, political ideology, and appearances to select political candidates, we might expect that political facial stereotypes would sway voting preferences and, by extension, the share of votes going to each candidate in an election. And yet few studies have examined whether having a stereotypically conservative-looking (or liberal-looking) face predicts a candidate's vote shares. Using data from U.S. election exit polls, we show that the Republican voters within each state are more likely to vote for a candidate (even a Democrat) the more that person has a stereotypically Republican-looking face. By contrast, the voting choices of the Democratic voters within each state are unrelated to political facial stereotypes. Moreover, we show that the relationship between political facial stereotypes and voting does not depend on state-level ideology: Republican voters in both right-leaning (“red”) and left-leaning (“blue”) states are more likely to vote for candidates with conservative-looking faces. These results have several important practical and theoretical implications concerning the nature and impact of political facial stereotypes, which we discuss.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1157-1171
Number of pages15
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Social Psychology
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • exit polls
  • first impressions
  • political facial stereotypes
  • voting, electoral success


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