I Can See You’re a Democrat

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Republicans look powerful. Democrats looks warm.

At least that’s the conclusion of a new study in PloS ONE that reveals we can accurately identify if someone is a Republican or a Democrat from their headshot alone.

The Tufts University authors explain their three-tiered research:

  • In Study 1, perceivers were able to accurately distinguish whether US Senate candidates were either Democrats or Republicans based on photos of their faces.
  • Study 2 showed these effects extended to Democrat and Republican college students, based on their senior yearbook photos.
  • Study 3 showed these judgments were related to differences in perceived traits among the Democrat and Republican faces. Republicans were perceived as more powerful (translation: with faces showing more dominance and maturity) than Democrats. Democrats were perceived as more warm (translation: with faces showing more trustworthiness and likeability) than Republicans.

Prior research (and good old common sense) reveals that we all draw conclusions about others based on their appearance and behaviors. The face is the number one conduit of nonverbal communication about human behavioral traits, dispositions, and identities—including age, gender, race, and sexual orientation.

Most interesting, we in Western cultures judge competence and power from the faces of political candidates—and our judgments are fairly accurate predictors of a candidates’ margin of victory. We may be born with this ability, since even children can judge politicians’ faces and predict their electoral success.

But do crows do even better? According to a recent study in Animal Behaviour, crows recognize and remember—even years later—the faces of humans who’ve mistreated them.

If crows could vote, would we have suffered a second George Bush II term?

The article Democrats and Republicans Can Be Differentiated from Their Faces is open access online. Read for yourself what interesting creatures we are. Thanks to The Situationist for the link.


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend