Republican women look more feminine than Democrats, study says
Perhaps counter-intuitively Republican male lawmakers tend to look less typically masculine than their Democratic counterparts.
Fri, Sep 28 2012 at 2:01 AM
Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann is a good example of the scientific correlation, said the study by two Californian psychology graduates, which looked at features including cheek bones and fullness of lips. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr)
Female Republican U.S. lawmakers look more feminine than their Democratic counterparts, according to a study published based on computer analysis of facial features.
Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann is a good example of the scientific correlation, said the study by two Californian psychology graduates, which looked at features including cheek bones and fullness of lips.
Perhaps counter-intuitively, however, Republican male lawmakers tend to look less typically masculine than their Democratic counterparts, according to the University of California Los Angeles research.
The study, compiled by feeding portraits of 434 members of the House of Representatives into a computer modeling program, took no account of hairstyles, jewelry or makeup.
"Female politicians with stereotypically feminine facial features are more likely to be Republican than Democrat," said lead author Colleen Carpinella.
What's more, "the correlation increases the more conservative the lawmaker's voting record," she added of the study, to be published online in the peer-reviewed.
"I suppose we could call it the 'Michele Bachmann effect,'" added Kerri Johnson, the study's senior author and an assistant professor of communication studies and psychology at UCLA.
The model compared faces based on more than 100 features, including the shape of the jaw, the location of eyebrows, the placement of cheek bones, the shape of eyes, the contour of the forehead and the fullness of the lips.
"We weren't looking at hairstyle, jewelry or whether a person was wearing makeup or not," Carpinella said. "We wanted to get an objective measure of how masculine or feminine a face is."
Republican men — who tend to exhibit a traditional male ethos by calling for hawkish policies abroad and small government self-reliance at home — have less stereotypically masculine faces than Democrats, the study found.
"It may be unnecessary for Republican men to exhibit masculinity through their appearance," Carpinella said. "Their policy advocacy and leadership roles may already confer these characteristics on them."
The differences were so pronounced that 120 politically uninformed undergraduates could guess the political affiliation of lawmakers with an accuracy rate exceeding chance, just by looking at photographs of them.
Among Republicans ranked as highly feminine looking were Bachmann, Kay Granger from Texas and Cathy Rodgers McMorris from Washington.
Among Democrats ranked as less feminine looking were Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota, Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Anna G. Eshoo of California.
The study's authors said more research was needed to understand the reasons for the correlations, but that political branding could be partly responsible.
"The Democratic Party is associated with social liberal policies that aim to diminish gender disparities, whereas the Republican Party is associated with socially conservative policy issues that tend to bolster traditional sex roles," Johnson said.
"These policy platforms are manifest in each party's image -- apparently also in the physical characteristics exhibited by politicians."
Copyright 2012 AFP Global Edition