Attractive politicians get more television coverage than their less good-looking counterparts, according to a new Israeli study.



Photo by NASA/Bill Ingalls.
Politicians like US President Barack Obama are likely to get the lion’s share of TV coverage because of their good looks, according to a new Israeli study.

It’s official. The Obamas and Bill Clintons of this world are always going to get better media coverage than other politicians will, just because they’re good looking. A new study by the University of Haifa in Israel shows that the better a politician looks, the higher the frequency of television news coverage.

“Earlier studies have shown that people generally tend to prefer the company of people who are physically attractive and even value them as more worthy people. Our study reveals that journalists probably behave just like the rest,” note the researchers from the university’s department of communication.

The study was carried out by Dr. Yariv Tsfati, Dana Markowitz Elfassi and Dr. Israel Waismel-Manor and based on a thesis written by Markowitz Elfassi. It explores the association between the physical appearance of politicians and news coverage on Israeli television channels 1, 2 and 10.

The researchers, who published their study in the International Journal of Press/Politics, surveyed the coverage of all members of the 16th Israeli Knesset on these channels. In parallel, they asked Dutch students who were not familiar with the personalities of the Knesset members to rate the appearance of the politicians based on their official website photos. Control variables such as age, sector, political tenure and centrality were added.

Women get less media coverage, however pretty

It was found that the more attractive politicians receive more coverage on the television news than do the less attractive ones, physical appearance having more influence on the amount of coverage for women than for men. Significantly, despite receiving the highest rankings for their looks, the overall television news reporting on female politicians was significantly less than that for men. It was also found that young members of Knesset received higher marks for appearance, but their media coverage was lower.

“Seeing as there are those politicians who enjoy and seek out media coverage more than others, we wanted to examine whether motivation and effort to achieve media exposure are the factors that actually determine the amount of coverage. But this study has revealed that these are not mediating factors for physical appearance, and attractiveness has an effect regardless,” the researchers say.

It also emerged that factors such as political tenure and seniority have a positive influence on coverage and that army rank also carries considerable weight. This is probably due to the prominence of security matters on Israel’s media agenda. The more senior the politicians were in the army prior to entering the political arena, the more coverage they receive.

“Nowadays, publicists and campaigners, as well as politicians themselves, are aware of the importance of media skills. Our study demonstrates how being attentive to outward appearance must be included in these skills, seeing as it can increase the politician’s exposure through the media,” the researchers conclude.

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