A political contest that has no binding vote and is mostly for show—such as a straw poll—is called a “beauty contest.” The most attractive candidate wins, but it’s all for show.
The term “beauty contest” became popular in January and February 1952, with New Hampshire’s presidential primary.
beauty contest, noun
: a presidential primary election in which the popular vote does not determine the number of convention delegates a candidate receives
(Oxford English Dictionary)
beauty contest, n.
Polit. (orig. and chiefly U.S.) (usu. depreciative). A contest (esp. for political office) in which the outcome is thought to be influenced more by the personalities and media image of the candidates than by their policies or capabilities.
Sometimes used with specific reference to the U.S. presidential primary elections: see primary election at primary adj. 8.
1914 Bull. Amer. Libr. Assoc. 8 274/2 The same strictures hold against the ‘beauty’ contests which have marked the choice of state librarians in some of the southern states.
1952 N.Y. Times 10 Feb. 56/4 At one place on the ballot voters mark their choice for President, but this is known as a ‘beauty contest’ because is [sic] has no bearing on the election of delegates.
1960 Los Angeles Times 9 Jan. 3/1 Nixon and Kennedy are not likely to have any opposition in the so-called beauty-contest phase of the balloting.
1976 National Observer (U.S.) 14 Feb. 5/1 The beauty contest for Vice President. Democrats can choose either Auburn Lee Packwood or Ray Rollinson.
1996 D. Frum What’s Right 14 A contest as avidly fought and as important as any early caucus or straw-poll beauty contest.
31 January 1952, New York (NY) Herald Tribune, “N.H. Primary A Scramble” by Bert Andrews, pg. 4, col. 3:
The New Hampshire situation is complicated because the primary is both a “beauty contest,” with the popular vote showing up, and has provisions for selecting pledged states or “favorable to” states.
10 February 1952, New York (NY) Times, “Parties Limited in Primary Influence” by W. H, Lawrence, pg. 56, col. 4:
In New Hampshire there are two primaries in each party on the same day. At one place on the ballot voters mark their choice for President, but this is known as a ‘beauty contest’ because is [sic] has no bearing on the election of delegates.
9 March 1952, Boston (MA) Sunday Herald, “115,000 Due to Vote Tuesday As Nation Watches N. H. Test” by Oliver Jenkins, pg. 12, col. 2:
A kind of straw vote, popularly known as the “beauty contest,” the votes will have a psychological effect but will not be binding upon elected delegates.
American Government Annual
New York, NY Henry Holt
Like New Hampshire, Illinois’s primary is a “beauty contest,” but unlike New Hampshire, the delegates do not pair themselves with a potential nominee.
21 March 1960, Life magazine, “Issues Beyond the Image,” pg. 32, col. 1:
Since neither Senator Kennedy nor Vice President Nixon had any serious opposition in his own party, last week’s New Hampshire primary was accurately described as a “beauty contest.”
26 August 1979, Marietta (GA) Daily Journal, “Conflict’s Are Hindering State’s Republican Efforts” (UPI), pg. 3A, col. 2:
“We’re taking away from ur presidential primary in March with a beauty contest that is in no way binding,” said Tommy Thomas, former state party chairman, and Reagan partisan.
A “non-binding beauty contest”
The first Democratic presidential primary in the nation was held yesterday in the District, in an attempt to get out the message to the rest of the country that D.C. has no actual voting representation in Congress. It was a challenge that D.C. accepted, and then hilariously failed.
January 20, 2016
2016 election glossary
By The CNN Political Unit
Non-binding primary (aka “beauty contest"): A primary that does not affect a party’s delegate selection process. Voters cast ballots for their preferred candidates, but no delegates are allocated to candidates based on the results.
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • Friday, January 29, 2016 • Permalink