'Tall beats small' in leadership stakes

'Tall beats small' in leadership stakes

By Alex Stevenson

Political leaders are more likely to win elections if they are taller than their rivals, new analysis has suggested.

Researchers from the US' Texas Tech University have unveiled findings in the Social Science Quarterly journal suggesting that voters instinctively prefer their leaders to be taller.

Their findings will be welcomed by David Cameron, who at 6ft 1ins has the edge over the 5ft 11ins of Labour leader Ed Miliband.

"Our research and the literature demonstrate that there is a preference for physically formidable leaders that likely reflects an evolved psychological trait, independent of any cultural conditioning," report co-author Professor Gregg Murray said.

The researchers surveyed 500 students about their preferences. They also asked them to draw a 'typical citizen' and an 'ideal national leader'. Nearly two-thirds of students drew the leader as a taller person than the average citizen.

Academic acknowledgement of height's importance is not a new phenomenon. It extends beyond politics to the business world, where studies have shown tall people get jobs 8.5% more readily than short people and earn one-quarter more.

Author Catherine Hakim argued in her book Erotic Capital, published last month, that there are clear advantages to being tall.

"By early adulthood, tall people have substantially better social and psychological development, in terms of emotional stability, extraversion, motivation, optimism, taking authority, courtesy to others and sociability," she argued.

"They also have greater intellectual ability, possibly due to better nutrition. Higher ability and better social skills contribute equally to the higher wages of the tall."

Being short does not prevent a successful political career, she acknowledged, adding: "Short men have to be exceptionally able to overcome this disadvantage. Napoleon did it. So did Hitler. But tall men find their path in life smoother and easier."