Some researchers have been looking into what people vote for in a politician and whether this gets us effective politicians. It would seem not:
We found that voters are not necessarily able to see what politicians are required to do in their day-to-day work and therefore have to rely on characteristics that might seem to matter for leadership, but may not actually be that importantThe researchers go on to observe:
Voters increasingly choose politicians based on personality traits such as how warm, reliable, or decisive they appear to be, judged often by how they look or how tall they are.This last point reminds me of Scott Adams observation that, all other things being equal, the tall candidate with good hair will win. Nevertheless:
...voters prefer candidates who are agreeable, but are won over less by people who look warm...It seems that the politician who engages with the public by nodding, smiling and say "absolutely something should be done about that" is the same politician who, faced with the wiles of the professional bureaucrat, will smile, nod and say "absolutely, we'll do that".
We quite often pretend that we want politicians who think for themselves, challenge the assumptions of the bureaucracy, and provide leadership or direction. But when we get to the ballot box, we ignore all that and choose the one who says he's our friend. The problem with this is that we've likely chosen a candidate who wants to be everyone's friend making meaning that - and you'll see this all the time in councillors and MPs - he or she will spend their entire time crafting appealing platitudinous soundbites rather than doing the job. It's also a reminder that the 'good constituency MP' is perhaps less useful than the MP who spends more time doing questioning and challenging things in Parliament. Not that MPs should ignore their constituencies but rather than spending the five years of their term opening fetes, visiting businesses and kissing babies in Bigchester South might be agreeable to those constituents but doesn't make for an effective MP.