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With the 2016 Legislative Council (LegCo) elections upcoming, the Bauhinia Foundation Research Centre has launched an online survey which will attempt to confirm whether candidate appearance has a significant impact on the vote share of LegCo candidates. This survey will run from August 18th, 2016 to September 4th, 2016. Our research aims to build on the findings from our previous survey which analysed results from the 2015 District Council elections. In the previous survey, which was conducted in May 2016, we found that candidates who were rated highly by our users based on their photos tended to win more vote share in the 2015 District Council elections. For more information on the District Council survey, please refer to our Occasional Paper.
Foreign political researchers have found that the significance of candidate appearance on vote share tends to be more pronounced in “low-information” elections such as local council rates as compared to “high-information” races. This is because low-information elections tend to have a higher proportional of low-information voters who are unfamiliar with the candidates' political beliefs. As compared to the District Council elections, the LegCo elections are more "high-information" because there are fewer candidates and constituencies and more press coverage for each candidate. Also, the LegCo has more political importance than the District Council. For these reasons we believe that the effect of candidate appearance is unlikely to be as significant in the LegCo elections. Nonetheless, we have decided to launch a survey to confirm whether this is in fact the case.
The LegCo survey is quite similar to the District Council survey. It invites participants to rate LegCo geographical constituency and District Council (second) functional constituency candidates based on their election photos. This time, however, we ask each participant whether they recognise the candidates in the survey before requesting the participants to rate each candidate on a scale of 1 to 5 based on their attractiveness and their competence. Of course, we anticipate that many participants will recognise candidates and assign ratings based on factors besides their appearance. The results from our survey and our forthcoming analysis of the elections will not be released until after September 4th.