Social class, culture, and age are among the many factors that can influence voting behavior. Now, new research using data from the United Kingdom claims a person’s height can be added to the list, after finding taller people are more likely to be politically conservative.
Researchers find the taller a person is, the more likely they are to be politically conservative.
The study comes from Sara Watson, assistant professor of political science at The Ohio State University, and Raj Arunachalam, of economic consulting firm Bates White, LLC, in Washington, D.C.
According to the researchers, many studies have found that income tends to be higher for people who are taller, and other research has suggested a person’s income influences voting behavior.
However, Watson and Arunachalam note that some studies assessing the association between income and voting have produced conflicting results.
“We were thinking about why there were so many seemingly contradictory findings. One reason might be that income fluctuates from year to year, so that a relationship between your overall economic well-being and your political beliefs can be hard to uncover,” says Watson.
With this in mind, she and Arunachalam decided to use height as a proxy for income as a way of determining whether there is a link between a person’s earnings and their voting behavior.
Every 1-inch increase in height increased conservative support
The team drew data from the 2006 British Household Panel Survey, which includes around 10,300 individuals from 250 regions across Britain.
The researchers analyzed the self-reported height, income, and political beliefs of more than 9,700 of the survey respondents.
The team found that the taller participants were, the more likely they were to be politically conservative.
For every 1-inch increase in height, the team found individuals were 0.6 percent more likely to support the U.K.’s Conservative Party and 0.5 percent more likely to vote for this party.
Taller adults were also more likely to support conservative views, the researchers report; for example, they were less likely to agree that major public services and industries should be owned by the state.
The link between taller height and increased conservative support was stronger for men than women; taller men were 0.8 percent more likely to be politically conservative, while conservative support was 0.4 percent more likely for taller women.
However, Watson and Arunachalam warn that this difference between men and women was not statistically significant.
After accounting for a number of potentially confounding factors – such as race, religion, and marital status – the researchers found their findings stayed the same.
Cementing the link between height, income, and voting
Next, the researchers applied height to an “instrumental variable” strategy, which allowed them to assess how income influences voting.
“Height is useful in this context because it predicts income well,” explains Watson. “Because we only expect height to affect political behavior through income, we can use it to investigate the effect of income on voting.”
The results revealed that every 1-inch increase in height equated to approximately £350 (around $460) in income, and each 10-percent rise in income increased the likelihood of voting for the Conservative Party by 5.5 percent.
While the researchers were unable to pinpoint why height appears to influence a person’s income, they point to previous studies that have suggested people favor taller individuals, believing they have more self-confidence and are more intelligent.
There is no doubt that the link between height, income, and political preference is an interesting one, but as the researchers note, there are many more factors that can influence a person’s political views.
“Income and height play a role, but they are not political destiny,” says Watson.
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