A study examining voter responses to mug shots in newspapers found that they have a significant effect on a candidate's success in an election. The study was conducted after an Alton, Illinois, newspaper featured a full-page article on five candidates running for mayor, all but one of whom appeared dressed in a suit in a professional "mug shot." The fifth candidate appeared unsmiling in a windbreaker, though the newspaper had another professional shot of him in a suit and smiling. A number of parents and students at Principia College, none familiar with the details of the local race, were asked a series of questions about two sets of photographs representing the above candidates: one set represented the candidates as they appeared in the newspaper; the other replaced the fifth candidate's mug shot with a professional shot. Knowing nothing about the candidates, 41 respondents were asked to rate the first set according to competence, experience, friendliness, honesty and leadership. A second group of 47 were asked to rate the second set of photographs according to the same criteria. Results showed that the first group rated the fifth candidate lowest, while the second group rated him second to the highest. The first group said he looked "rough,""unfriendly,""like a crook." Conclusions suggest not that the newspaper's use of his mug shot lost the race for the fifth candidate. Although many variables were involved, it is suggested that mug shots do influence voters. (Contains 26 notes and the "mug shots.") (TB)
Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (77th, Atlanta, GA, August 10-13, 1994). Photographs might not reproduce well.
Illinois (Alton); Journalism Research; Mug Shots; Principia College IL; Visual Communication