NPR : News

Filed Under:

Another Partisan Divide: Mitt Romney's Looks

It's clear that Republicans and Democrats had different political opinions about Mitt Romney. But did Romney literally look different to the two sides? A forthcoming study suggests that might be the case.

According to new research from Ohio State University psychologists, individual political biases might have caused 2012 GOP presidential nominee's physical appearance to appear different to Republicans and Democrats.

Here's how the study worked: Researchers brought in 148 undergraduate students and asked them about their views of Romney and President Obama, how likely they were to vote in the election (or if they had already voted) and to rate themselves as a Democrat or a Republican, and as a liberal or conservative.

Then the students were directed to compare 450 pairs of slightly different images of Romney's face and asked to select the one in each pair that they thought looked the most like him. (The participants were plenty familiar with Romney; the study was conducted over the course of several weeks in November 2012, both in the days just before the presidential election and in the immediate aftermath.)

Once the photos were selected, researchers created two sets of composite photos of Romney's face — one based on the choices of the GOP-leaning participants, and another based on the Democratic-leaning participants.

When a separate group of 213 adults were asked which images of Romney looked more trustworthy and more positive, overall they chose the ones generated by the Republicans.

"That our attitudes could bias something that we're exposed to so frequently is an amazing biasing effect," said Ohio State University psychology professor Russell Fazio, the senior author of the study, in a release. "It suggests that people may not just interpret political information about a candidate to fit their opinion, but that they may construct a political world in which they literally see candidates differently."

The full report, Political Attitudes Bias the Mental Representation of a Presidential Candidate's Face, will soon be published in the academic journal Psychological Science.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit

WAMU 88.5

Anne Tyler: "A Spool Of Blue Thread" (Rebroadcast)

In her first live radio interview ever, Pulitzer Prize winning author Anne Tyler joins Diane to talk about her 20th novel, "A Spool of Blue Thread."


Thanksgiving Buzz: What Would Pilgrims Say About The Plight Of Bees?

When you sit down for your holiday dinner, you may want to give thanks to bees and other pollinators. Their health is tied to your food. What's behind the bee declines? Watch our video investigation.

Reconsidering The Pilgrims, Piety And America's Founding Principles

Conservatives who want to emphasize America's Christian roots embrace the story of the Pilgrims and the Mayflower Compact. But some historians say their role in the country's founding is overstated.

From Takeout To Breakups: Apps Can Deliver Anything, For A Price

Convenience is at an all-time premium — and a lot of smartphone apps promise to make many of the things we do every day easier. In a time-crunch or sheer laziness, how far will the apps take us?

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.