Weight bias plagues US elections

May 19, 2014

Overweight political candidates tend to receive fewer votes than their thinner opponents, finds a new study co-authored by a Michigan State University weight bias expert.

While past research has found in schools, businesses, entertainment and other facets of American society, this is the first scientific investigation into whether that bias extends to election outcomes, said Mark Roehling, professor of human resources.

"We found weight had a significant effect on voting behavior," Roehling said. "Additionally, the greater size disparity between candidates, the greater the vote share of the more slender candidate."

Before he became a university professor, Roehling was a at a Fortune 100 corporation and a civil attorney who specialized in employment cases such as wrongful discharge and .

For the study, he and his wife, Patricia Roehling, a psychology professor at Hope College, analyzed data from the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Senate elections. Using a previously established scientific method, research assistants determined from color photos whether the candidates in 126 primary and general elections were normal weight, overweight or obese.

Both and women were less likely to get on the ballot in the first place. When it came to merely being overweight, women were underrepresented on the ballot, though men were not. This is consistent with previous research showing men who are slightly heavy tend not to experience discrimination like that of slightly overweight women.

However, when it came to the voting, both male and female candidates – whether obese or simply overweight – got a lower share of the vote total than their more slender opponents.

"The study," said Roehling, "provides evidence that the bias and discrimination against the overweight and obese that has been documented in the areas of employment, education, health care and social situations also extends to the electoral process in the United States."

The study was published online in May in the research journal Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

Explore further: A call to US educators: Learn from Canada

Related Stories

Studies refute common stereotypes about obese workers

Jul 18, 2008

New research led by a Michigan State University scholar refutes commonly held stereotypes that overweight workers are lazier, more emotionally unstable and harder to get along with than their "normal weight" colleagues.

'Weightism' increases risk for becoming, staying obese

Jul 24, 2013

Weight discrimination may increase risk for obesity rather than motivating individuals to lose weight, according to research published July 24 in the open access journal PLoS ONE by Angelina Sutin and Antonio Terracciano from t ...

Body weight and gender influence judgment in the courtroom

Jan 09, 2013

(Medical Xpress)β€”In a study that offers insight into the depth of stigmatization of overweight and obese people, researchers at the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity found that weight stigma extends ...

Attitude during pregnancy affects weight gain

Feb 26, 2014

Overweight or obese women with the mentality that they are "eating for two" are more likely to experience excessive weight gain while pregnant, according to researchers at Penn State College of Medicine.

Recommended for you

College rankings go under the microscope

4 hours ago

Parents, students and admissions officials have combed through college and university rankings for years. However, education researchers have largely ignored the controversial lists. That's about to change, according to a ...

A call to US educators: Learn from Canada

18 hours ago

As states and the federal government in the U.S. continue to clash on the best ways to improve American education, Canada's Province of Ontario manages successful education reform initiatives that are equal parts cooperation ...

Devices or divisive: Mobile technology in the classroom

Apr 17, 2015

Little is known about how new mobile technologies affect students' development of non-cognitive skills such as empathy, self-control, problem solving, and teamwork. Two Boston College researchers say it's ...

Forming school networks to educate 'the new mainstream'

Apr 17, 2015

As immigration increases the number of non-English speaking "culturally and linguistically diverse" students, schools will need to band together in networks focused on the challenges of educating what has been called "the ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Doug_Huffman
not rated yet May 19, 2014
LOL Fat-head is more than just an epithet, also a political liability. Hear that Chris Christie?
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) May 19, 2014
"Overweight political candidates tend to receive fewer votes than their thinner opponents"

-Perhaps this is because overweight people have trouble getting to the poles to vote for them. Did anybody think of this I wonder?

2 exceptions - chris christie and that idiot from toronto. I heard crackheads turned out in record numbers.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.