Fat Candidate? Don't Expect Many Votes

Larger waistline.  Bigger eater.  Non-exerciser.  At risk of dying earlier.

These are all the things we think when we hear about obesity.  But did you also know it means fewer votes?

That's right.  A new study has found evidence of voter bias against hefty candidates for U.S. Senate after controlling for other factors.

Who comes to mind right away?  For me, Gov. Chris Christie of N.J.  He may be a great governor (jury still out on that), but the first thing his name summons is the image of a fat guy, at least to me.

I know it's not fair but whenever I see him in his yards and yards of white or blue button-down shirts, all I can think about is what it would be like to sit next to him, overflowing into your chair.  Would that stop me from voting for him?  Maybe.  (He's also a Republican, which pretty much would.)

“Heavier candidates tended to receive lower vote share than their thinner counterparts and the larger the size difference between the candidates, the larger the vote share discrepancy,” newswise.com quotes Patricia V. Roehling, professor of psychology at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.
The upshot: due to bias against overweight political candidates, as much as one-third of the U.S. population is likely to be excluded from being elected to a major political office, newswise reports.  Why? Because that's how many of us are overweight or obese.
Now, I've fought weight issues all my life (right now I'm on the winning side, but we'll see), so it's probably a little strange that I feel this way about Christie.  (I also don't like the Fort Lee bridge shutdown, which I totally think he's behind, but that's for another day.)  Why would I shun someone who's fought the same fight as I?
Researchers examined pictures taken from candidate websites and estimated the size of each candidate for Senate in both primary and general elections. Each candidate was rated on a scale ranging from obese to underweight. They looked at 158 male candidates and 32 females, examining the vote totals for each candidate and controlled for variables such as age, gender, incumbency, and other factors. The result: the more slender the candidate, the greater his or her vote share.
Surprisingly, or not, obese people were almost absent from the study. Only four percent of the men and none of the women were rated obese, as compared to the general population, where 34 percent of U.S. males and 38 percent of females are considered obese.
Most interesting of all, at least to me, was that it was a different story for men labeled as overweight. Forty-one percent of the male Senate candidates were overweight. Only 16 percent of the women were in that category, however, with 84 percent being in the normal weight range.
"These findings suggest that overweight females are more likely to be excluded from candidacy than are overweight males,” Roehling says. This supported one of the study’s hypotheses that women candidates would experience a greater weight bias than men.
Big surprise.  


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