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May 20, 2014 03:57 PM EDT

Thinner Political Candidates Have A Leg Up On More Overweight Opponents In The Polls

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Thinner political candidates in the United States have an advantage over their more overweight opponents, according to a recent study UPI reported.

Researchers from Michigan State University found that weight discrimination in schools, businesses, entertainment and other facets of American society extends to election outcomes. They said there is little surprise that slender political candidates might have an advantage at the polls.  

"We found weight had a significant effect on voting behavior," Mark Roehling, researcher and professor of human resources, said in a statement. "Additionally, the greater size disparity between candidates, the greater the vote share of the more slender candidate."

Before becoming a university professor, Roehling was a human resources manager at a Fortune 100 corporation and a civil attorney who specialized in employment cases such as wrongful discharge and discrimination.

For the study, Roehling and his colleagues 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.

Based on their findings, both obese men 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.

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

"The study 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,"Roehling said.  

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