This study examines the cognitive and affective factors of candidate appraisal by manipulating candidate attractiveness and levels of issue agreement with voters. Drawing upon research in evolutionary psychology and cognitive neuroscience, this analysis proposes that automatic processing of physical appearance predisposes affective disposition toward more attractive candidates, thereby influencing cognitive processing of issue information. An experimental design presented attractive and unattractive candidates who were either liberal or conservative in a mock primary election. The data show strong partial effects for appearance on vote intention, an interaction between appearance and issue agreement, and a tendency for voters to assimilate the dissimilar views of attractive candidates. We argue that physical appearance is important in primary elections when the differences in issue positions and ideology between candidates is small.
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Vol. 30 • No. 1