Do voters discriminate against fat candidates?

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Not if you’re male, no matter what Jon Corzine thought.

Now there is some evidence, courtesy of a new paper from Beth Miller, Jennifer Lundgren, Diane Filion, and Lauren Thompson, which was presented at the 2011 APSA meeting.

Participants in the study were randomized to evaluate candidates who were male or female and obese or not obese.  Obesity was conveyed through digitally altering photographs, as in the example below:

Miller and colleagues find that obese male candidates were actually evaluated more positively than non-obese male candidates.  Obese female candidates, however, were evaluated essentially the same or less positively than non-obese female candidates, depending on the measure of evaluation, writes John Sides.  Moreover, obese female candidates also elicited a stronger negative emotional reaction, as measured by the participants’ startle reflex.


To be sure, this is a small study whose participants were exclusively college students.  Nevertheless, these findings dovetail with previous work by Miller and Lundgren, who also find an “obesity penalty” for women candidates but not men.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.