Most American presidents are tall men. Of the forty-four we’ve had, 18 have been at or over six feet, with four just missing the mark by a half-inch or less. George W. Bush is 5’11½”. Fourteen were under 5’10”, with Jimmy Carter being the shortest in the last half century at 5’9½”. That’s important, because Carter beat six-foot Gerald Ford.
Ford, who pardoned Richard Nixon, and was the first unelected incumbent president to pair with an unelected incumbent vice president, had to be a pretty weak candidate to lose to the quirky, pedantic, bed-making, born-again Carter. And Carter turned out to be the weakest president in the last half century (and probably more than that, but I don’t want to delve into history).
Hillary Clinton is 5’7″ in comfortable shoes. She does occasionally wear heels under her Pokemon petticoats and pantsuits, which makes her 5’8½”. Trump is 6’2″. He towers over Clinton. If we use the rubric of tall presidents, then it made perfect sense for Trump to spend so much time attacking Jeb Bush, the only candidate taller than him (Jeb is 6’3″). Ted Cruz is a measly 5’10”.
According to USA Today, Mike Pence is about 5’10”. He’s still taller than Clinton.
There’s actually psychology behind this. From the American Psychological Association:
The process of literally ‘looking down on others’ may cause one to be more confident,” Judge says. “Similarly, having others ‘looking up to us’ may instill in tall people more self-confidence.”
As such, the biggest correlation between height and salary appeared in sales and management positions–careers in which customer perception has a major impact on success. If customers believe a tall salesperson is more commanding, for example, they may be more likely to follow the salesperson’s wishes, Judge says.
Accordingly, height was most predictive of earnings in jobs that require social interaction, which include sales, management, service and technical careers. The height effect also mattered–though to a lesser degree–in other jobs such as crafts and blue-collar and clerical positions, researchers found.
The study also found that shorter men are slightly more likely to encounter height bias in the workplace than are shorter women. This phenomenon might have evolutionary origins, Judge posits.
What is campaigning if not sales?
Hillary has tall Bill going for her–at 6’2″ he’s every inch a man as Trump. But Melania is easier on the eyes than Bill, so I think that cancels out Bill’s advantage. Having a hot wife isn’t something anyone I know of has analyzed for presidential candidates, but it certainly helped John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, James Madison (Dolley was quite a doll), John Tyler (whose wife Julia was a cover girl and model like Melania), and Barack Obama.
It’s empirically true: taller candidates get more votes. This could be why Trump picked Pence over Chris Christie, who is an inch taller in height but about 10 inches bigger in girth. Fat people tend to look shorter in perception.
There is an inherent advantage in being a tall male in presidential politics. That simply shows how weak Trump is as a presidential candidate. He’s losing in just about all the polls to a short, frumpy old woman. Apparently “scary as hell” trumps short and frumpy when all other things are equal (they are both professional lying, unprincipled hacks).
And yes, this entire analysis is incredibly shallow, which goes perfectly with the incredibly shallow candidate the GOP has just elevated to its point position and banner. Donald Trump, the exemplar of shallowness: A man who has studied and pursued it as a life goal. We might just see exactly how shallow we are as a country this November, or exactly how weak Trump is.