Listening to candidates debate may not be the best way of guessing who
will win an election.
A study by two US universities found that people were better at
predicting election winners solely on the candidates' appearance rather
than hearing what they have to say.
"We found that snap decisions based on charisma are a good predictor of
election outcomes," research co-author Daniel Benjamin of Dartmouth
College said in a statement.
Moreover, co-author Jesse Shapiro of the University of Chicago said:
"Hearing what they say makes you worse at predicting."
The study used 10-second long silent video clip extracts of debates
from 58 gubernatorial
elections between 1988 and 2002. Some 264 subjects
participated in the study.
The video clips did not give the candidate's name or party affiliation,
and the segments were always of debates between two white male candidates
to eliminate race and gender wild
Based on this limited information, the volunteers were asked to guess
which candidate had won. The study found that the subjects were quite good
at guessing the winner.
The research, however, was unable to determine which physical
attributes gave a candidate the edge.
"There is something mysterious about it," Shapiro said. "People's
readings of physical attractiveness are not very predictive. It's who they
think would win. It's not just who is good looking, it's something else."
With the audio on, subjects were no better at predicting an outcome,
According to Benjamin, the research "may help to explain for example
why experts forecasters, who are highly informed about and attentive to
policy matters, have been found to perform no better than chance in
The study, however, did not predict who had the charisma to win the
races in Tuesday's US legislative and gubernatorial