When the New York Times publishes an article entitled Study Says Looks Matter as TV Covers Congress, it’s sort of begging for my two cents. So take it away, paper of record:
Two Israeli professors concluded that members whom a student survey judged to be better looking appeared more frequently on television — but not radio or in newspapers. The researchers argued that the networks were trying to attract larger audiences.
Of course, this report continues a recent trend of Israelis meddling in American politics, but we’ll leave that more serious discussion for another day – or another blog. In the meantime, I just want to talk about attractive congressmen – and congresswomen.
On its surface, the paper’s finding is somewhat disconcerting, as the study authors note:
“In an ideal democracy, the amount of news coverage representatives receive should be determined by the quality of their work and the originality of their ideas,” the professors wrote. Instead, they said, the networks were compromising “the democratic principle of equal access to the public sphere.”
So attractive members of congress get more facetime. This isn’t really shocking, given numerous studies that show more attractive people, on average, can expect to make more money and are generally more successful than their less-blessed counterparts.
That said, the survey can boast at least two redeeming factors. For one, it included all congresspeople (save the famous, instantly-recognizable ones):
The members considered most attractive were disproportionately Republicans, senators and women.
Specifically, it did not limit itself to only, say female members of Congress, as did this ranking of the world’s most beautiful female politicians (click through for the complete list, including four Members of Knesset, and Hillary Clinton). In other words, the study wasn’t designed to sell magazine covers.
For two, well, here were the top 5 most-attractive members of Congress in 2007 (when the survey was conducted):
Representative Marsha Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee; Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Democrat of South Dakota; Senator Saxby Chambliss, Republican of Georgia; Representative Connie Mack, Republican of Florida; and Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota.
Those names might not mean all that much to you, so here’s a glimpse* (you’re welcome):
Consider the fact that Congress is made up of 535 lawmakers; the five pictured above constitute less than 1% of the total.
Now, I’m not going to comment on my personal taste, or the degree to which those pictured set my heart and other body parts aflutter (you can think the New York Times coverage for that imagery), but I will offer this food for thought: now imagine the other 99%.
And try to take heart that while more attractive members of Congress may get more attention on the telly, you can be fairly certain they’re not being elected in the first place thanks to their dashing good looks.
It probably has more to do with money.
*Other Connie Mack.