Previous studies have suggested that the looks of political candidates are a key factor in influencing voters, but now a new Massachusetts Institute of Technology study has detailed which types of citizens are most influenced by candidate appearances.

MIT political scientists found that so-called ‘low-information voters’ — those who watch a lot of TV but who aren’t well versed on policy issues — are most likely to vote for a candidate based on looks alone.

Using data from the 2006 U.S. Senate and governors’ races, the study showed that for every 10-point increase in the advantage a candidate has when rated by voters on his or her looks, there will be a nearly 5 percent increase in the vote for that candidate by the uninformed voters who are most firmly planted on their couches. Yet that same advantage in looks is worth only about a 1 percent increase among low-information voters who watch little television.

“It’s not that this effect influences all voters exactly the same way,” said Chappell Lawson, an associate professor of political science at the MIT and a co-author of the study.

“Voters who watch a lot of television but don’t really know much about the candidates, besides how they look, are particularly susceptible,” added Lawson.

The study is detailed in the American Journal of Political Science.

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