The next U.S. president will be likeable, compassionate, and healthy
May 15, 2008 01:40 PM
Ashley Grace Larson, a freshman at Seneca High School in Missouri, knows who the next U.S. president will be: Her mother.
Or at least that's what would happen if she put her mom up against her science teacher's husband in an election at a university near her. In her project presented here at the Intel International Science & Engineering Festival
, Ashley wanted to know whether physical appearance and gender would affect voting
. She Photoshopped photos of her mother and her science teacher's husband, changing their apparent weight and smiles. When she surveyed university students and faculty aged 18 to 53 about who they would vote for, this photo of her mother won out over three other photos of her and four photos of her science teacher's husband. [Text continues after the photo
Granted, these voters had no information about the hypothetical candidates' positions or history, but what the results showed, she told us, was that appearance does affect
how voters perceive candidates. She initially thought that men and Republicans would be more swayed by appearance. That men might value appearance is, perhaps, obvious; the Republican hypothesis was less clear (Ashley said that she lives in a heavily Republican district, and a lot of the Republicans she knows pay attention to these sorts of things). But that turned out not to be the case. In surveys not linked to the photos, likeability was linked to compassion and competence "“ the more likeable a candidate, the higher they scored on the other two factors. Health was also important to voters. [Text continues after the photo
"I think this can be used to possibly predict the outcome of elections," she says. The matchup is, of course, make-believe, but maybe it gives some insight into how voters would react to a head-to-head confrontation between Hillary Clinton and John McCain (who match mom and the science teacher's husband on gender and ethnicity, at least). Ashley would like to test different ages and ethnicities next. If she does, she may get on the radar of an awful lot of political consultants. None have called her so far, but you never know.
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