If you're a member of Congress hoping to get more TV exposure, a new study provides a handy guide on what you'll need to do. Spouting crazy soundbites about making poor children get jobs and Obama trying to kill everyone's grandma is a good start. It also doesn't hurt to be black, male, or from a larger state. However, the most important thing to focus on is being really, really, ridiculously good looking.
Though Washington is said to be "Hollywood for ugly people," a pair of researchers from Israel's University of Haifa found that if you're too ugly it's less likely that you'll be given the privilege of being interrupted on Morning Joe. The New York Times reports that for a study in the journal Political Communication, Professors Israel Waismel-Manor and Yariv Tsfati surveyed students on the attractiveness of House and Senate members. Then they compared their results to the amount of coverage each member of Congress received on TV, radio, and in print. They eliminated presidential candidates and those in leadership posts to avoid skewing the results. (Thankfully, the survey was conducted in 2007, before Sen. Scott Brown took office. There's no telling what the inclusion of a man who's been played by Jon Hamm could have done to the data.)
The study found that those Congress members considered more attractive appeared more frequently on television, but weren't mentioned more on NPR or in USA Today. TV appearances weren't totally based on looks. As mentioned earlier, senators and representatives who are male, black, from large states or with extreme ideologies also showed up more on network television. Yet, looking good on camera still trumped time in office, bill sponsorship, and frequency of press releases when it comes to scoring media appearances.
The students generally found Republicans, senators, and women to be the more attractive of the bunch, and it's really unnecessary to reveal exactly how the politicians were ranked. However, what's the point of doing a round of Congressional "Hot or Not" if you aren't going to share the results? The paper of record reports that the top five were:
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.
If you forget the ranking, don't worry. John McCain's got it all written down in his burn book.