May the tallest candidate win

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(... Or rather, the tallest candidate may win.) Speaking of the air up there, there are lots of factors people use when figuring out whom to vote for, but according to some political statisticians, one of the most influential (unconsciously, at least) may be height. The data on this sort of thing certainly isn't iron-clad, and there are some notable exceptions to the not-quite rule, such as Jimmy Carter's victory over two-inches-taller Gerald Ford in the 1976 presidential race. Here are some height-related factoids from electoral history, courtesy Cecil Adams:

"In Language on Vacation (1965), word and number buff Dmitri Borgmann claimed that in the 19 U.S. presidential elections between 1888 and 1960, the taller candidate won the popular vote all but once, when 6'2" Franklin Roosevelt beat 6'2-1/2" Wendell Willkie in 1940. In 1888 5'11" Grover Cleveland beat 5'6" Benjamin Harrison at the polls but was cuffed in the electoral college, and in 1896 and 1900 both candidates were the same height.

In his 1982 book Too Small, Too Tall psychologist John Gillis presents similar results: in the 21 presidential elections from 1904 to 1984, the taller candidate won 80 percent of the time. What's more, he says, in the whole history of the Republic, only two presidents -- Harrison and James Madison (5'4") -- were appreciably shorter than the average height in their day.

We glean further insight on this issue from a delightful book called The Height of Your Life (1980) by Ralph Keyes (5'7.62"). Keyes notes that a survey of the U.S. Senate in 1866 found the average height of the members to be 5'10-1/2", well above average for men at the time. Keyes's own survey of 27 senators found the average height had risen to 6'0.33", 3.33" taller than the average American male. A similar survey of 31 governors found the average height to be 6'0.46"."

This is kind of how you'd imagine cave men choosing their leaders. (Or in the case of Borat Sagdiyev's fictionalized nation of Kazakhstan, it's the "man who can suspend car battery from testes-satchel the longest.") Either way, I'm going to be watching the height (er, election) results closely tonight.

NOW GET OUT THERE AND VOTE, PEOPLE!

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November 7, 2006 - 8:23am
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