Election 2013 media panel

Sex-appealgate favours the Coalition

The election is off the tabloid front pages. That is bad news for the incumbent - as I keep saying Kevin Rudd has to win the campaign to win the election.

This view isn’t just anti-Rudd propaganda.

To win, the government must engage the media and get back on the front pages - in a positive sense. “Sex-appealgate” is a distraction that the Coalition can afford, but not the government. The government must engage in a policy debate.

Surprisingly sex-appealgate actually benefits the Coalition. Far from demonstrating a problem with women, or latent sexism, or what-not it turns out that beauty matters in elections (pdf).

A paper by Amy King and Andrew Leigh found “a strong relationship between [estimates] of the attractiveness of a particular political candidate, and the share of the vote received by that candidate in the 2004 election.” Despite Mark Latham’s astonishing claims to the contrary I suspect many voters will find Fiona Scott more attractive than David Bradbury.

But there is a downside too. Amy King and Andrew Leigh also find that female candidates are at a slight disadvantage to male candidates at the ballot box (pdf). So which effect will dominate? Voters prefer better looking candidates but also prefer men slightly more than women.

David Bradbury is in trouble - Sportsbet indicates that he will lose his seat. This morning on Sky News he set out a list of his achievements in his own constituency but his media coverage has not been good (abusing a presenter on Smooth FM) while his opponent has received massive publicity.

For those who are uncomfortable looking to the betting markets as an indicator of election outcomes - Andrew Leigh is the Australian expert there too (pdf). He is the ALP member for Fraser and while he is safe in his own seat, his own research indicates a loss for the government.