In an election season as Crimson-tinged as this one (even the "New York Times" felt the need to report on the presidential candidates' shared alma mater), it should come as no surprise that Harvard researchers are behind a 2009 political psychology study that's been trending across the blogosphere for the past several days. Their findings? That Mitt Romney is the new McSteamy. Herewith, your questions answered.
Q: Since when is Mitt Romney hot?
A: Since before people knew who he was. According to Assistant Professor Ryan D. Enos of the Government Department, who conducted the 2009 study, he and his team of researchers gleaned their findings from a pool of undergraduates in California in 2007. Though Enos claims that their preferences are consistent with those found in any large group—Americans or foreigners, young or old—their West Coast location helped minimize familiarity with the faces of the faraway politicians whose images were flashed. To further reduce the role of bias in the undergraduates' judgment, Enos and his team took out any faces the students recognized. When asked to judge the competency of political figures based on appearance alone, these students put Romney in the 99th percentile of governors.
Q: Romney vs. Ryan?
A: Ryan, a supposed hottie, was in the 67th percentile... awkward. Though the two men were in separate categories within the study (House Members and Governors) and Enos said the point of the research was not to rank politicians, he also said that sometimes there is a clear winner. "My assumption is that if Mitt Romney is in the 99th percentile of governors he's probably way better looking than Ryan," Enos said.
Q: So what about Obama?
A: Too recognizable; not included in the study. Biden, however, placed in the 62nd percentile. "Better looking than average. But not as good looking as Ryan or Romney," Enos explained.
Q: How will this effect the 2012 election?
A: It probably won't. "Only under very particular circumstances, among a small group of [independent voters] will you see this effect," Enos said. In fact, the researchers found that not once in the 15-year period they examined was attractiveness or perceived competence enough to change the outcome of a senate race.
So for what it's worth, you now have the respective hotness levels of Romney and Ryan. On our side, we're hoping it's worth very little.