How your political views affect who you think is attractive

From The Washington Post:

Earlier this week, I wrote about how often Republicans and Democrats marry across party lines. The data show that it’s not all that common — while three in 10 married couples are made up of people from different political parties, research shows, only one in 10 of those couples are a Democrat with a Republican.

Another piece of research that came across my desk recently might offer some clues as to why. A study published in the journal Political Behavior suggests that finding out that someone is of a different political party can influence perceptions of how that person looks.

“People are likely to see people from the other political party as less attractive, and we found that for both men and women,” said Stephen Nicholson, the study’s lead author.

The effect is due to something researchers call “in-group bias.” That means that people in a social or cultural group tend to evaluate members of their own group more positively and people outside of that group more negatively. Past research has suggested that these negative feelings arise especially under conditions where different groups are competing — like politics.

The study was carried out during the 2012 presidential election, part of a larger research project about political issues. Researchers showed a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults a photograph of someone of the opposite sex — either a “moderately attractive” male or female — accompanied by some various information about the person’s likes and interests, sometimes including whether they supported Barack Obama or Mitt Romney for president.

When they weren’t told about the political leanings of the person in the photograph, Republicans and Democrats found the person equally attractive. But when the survey respondent was told that person supported a different political candidate from them, men and women of both parties reported the people in the photographs as being less …

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