Weight Bias Affect Political Elections


Overweight political candidates usually receive fewer votes than their thinner opponents, according to a recent study.

Researchers from Michigan State University found that weight discrimination in schools, businesses, entertainment and other facets of American society extends to election outcomes.

"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."

For the study, researchers 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.  

Before he became 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.

The findings were recently published in the journal Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

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