Wednesday, 17 August 2016

New study shows tall people are more politically conservative - if they are, why are they?

This from a report at the website:
The taller a person is, the more likely he or she is to support conservative political positions, support a conservative party and actually vote for conservative politicians, according to a new study using data from Britain.
"If you take two people with nearly identical characteristics - except one is taller than the other - on average the taller person will be more politically conservative," said Sara Watson, co-author of the study and assistant professor of political science at The Ohio State University.
The researchers found that a one-inch increase in height increased support for the Conservative Party by 0.6 percent and the likelihood of voting for the party by 0.5 percent.

If the report is right, and this is a genuine, measurable phenomenon,  I must admit I hadn't spotted it. I've just flicked through my mental Rolodex of friends and acquaintances and I'm not sure I can see any particular correlation. Yes, the two tallest people in the BBC news room when I worked there (I was one of them) were the two of the most right-wing wing people there - but the third was the second smallest female producer. (The taller the woman, the more conservative - only the tendency is slightly less marked than in men.) Some of my most vertically-challenged friends are Conservative or UKIP voters, and supported Brexit. And, of course, I've known any number of socialists well over six foot. But that's all anecdotal - on the whole, I see no reason to doubt Ohio State University's research data - especially as it doesn't appear to be politically motivated. The really interesting question is why there might be a correlation between one's height and one's politics.

Presumably a Briton who supports a conservative party and votes for conservative politicians displays a preference for the free market (within reason), competition, a smaller state, lower taxes, the rule of law, a strong defence, the right to pass their possessions on to their children (or to whoever they damn well want), and the opportunity to exploit their talent or luck without unduly harming society or the environment, but also without undue hindrance from egalitarians seeking to impose equal outcomes. Those of us on the Right can argue about where we are on the spectrum on each of these issues - but if you're strongly opposed to any of those attitudes, you're probably a left-winger, and should currently be deciding whether to support Jeremy Corbyn or Owen Smith or Tim Farron (who he? Ed).

So why would taller people tend to support conservative/right-wing principles?

It might be that height lends one confidence: one feel less threatened and therefore more confident of standing on one's own two feet.

Tall people tend to earn more on average (well, a bit), so they have more to protect, and therefore don't see why it should be taken away from them by the state to be passed on to (often undeserving) strangers.

As the vertically advantaged are supposed to offer physical protection to the vertically challenged, perhaps the instinct to protect one's country tends to be more developed. Given that we're less likely to be attacked or mugged, perhaps we more readily appreciate the benefit of possessing a strong deterrent.

When it comes to choosing someone for a task, it's harder for the behemoth to hide himself in a crowd, so we tend to get picked on to "volunteer", which may instil the habit of doing one's duty. Similarly, self-protective behaviour that would be seen as sensible in a smaller person can more easily be viewed as cowardice in us - it's harder to back away from confrontation when you're big, so, again, doing one's duty becomes a habit.

Large people (in Britain at least) tend not to use their natural size advantage to barge their way to the front of queues, which (experience tells us) little people do. A lot. If we do it, we're accused of being big bullies, so we tend not to. (Bar staff are particularly adept at ignoring the large person who's been waiting patiently to be served for twenty minutes, while happily tending to the needs of the short person standing at the back of the crush.) These experiences teach us self-restraint - and if we follow the rules and behave courteously towards others, we don't see why everyone else shouldn't.

Watch tall people scrunch themselves up on public transport and the way they make sure they're not obscuring the view of people sitting behind them in cinemas and theatres. We learn our obligations not to interfere with other people's rights early on.

Height has its disadvantages, of course - we tend to die earlier, finding clothes that fit is a nightmare, we are often uncomfortable in man-made environments inevitably tailored to smaller people, and many of our fellow-citizens assume that our bulk means that we are both aggressive and stupid (for some odd reason, we are also the chosen target for beggars and chuggers). But height's advantages aren't to be sneered at: people in business tend to remember having met us, we get offered better jobs, and - as one TV News colleague complained - "people only trust you because you're big." Given that we have enough disadvantages to cope with, we're buggered if we're going to be denied our precious advantages by mean-spirited levellers determined to cut us down to size.

Before those who are 5' 8" and under start howling in protest, let me assure them again that I do not recognise the picture painted by Ohio State's research. If anything, the shorter my friends are, the braver, more assertive, cleverer, livelier and funnier they tend to be - and they're not noticeably less conservative than chums over six foot (if anything, a bit more so, actually). I'm just trying to figure out why - if this report is on to something - Bigger Means Righter. It has to be a question of nurture rather than nature: whatever natural political tendencies we're born with - and I believe temperament plays a major role in one's political preferences - size can only play its part through our personal, everyday experiences.

If anyone has  explanations which are more convincing than the ones I've come up with, please let me know.


  1. With age, I have shrunk - from 5.4" to 5.3". I have always been right wing, though with my decreasing height I have caught myself having egalitarian sympathies on a few occasions. But the main thing I have experienced is annoyance at my lack of ability to reach top shelves in the kitchen. My friend S is about 5.9" and extremely left wing. We have to avoid the subject of Brexit. She went into hibernation and deep mourning after the result was announced.
    Does this make us the exception that proves the rule?

    1. To be honest, I've never understood how an exception could prove a rule, Helen.

      As I said, my own experience doesn't bear out the research findings - but, having said that, I'm not sure I've ever met anyone taller than me who was noticeably left-wing.

      I haven't had direct contact with any of the Remoaners I know since the result. With any luck, by the time I do meet any of them, they'll have recovered from the shock of discovering that the majority of Britons are xenophobic, narrow-minded, fear-filled Little Englanders - and that, contrary to what everyone on their side of the issue claimed, the economy hasn't collapsed and any number of countries are queuing up to sign trade deals with this poor, pathetic, friendless little country.

    2. No, I've never understood how it "proves the rule" either - I was hoping for enlightenment.
      However it has been proved that scare tactics simply make us untermensch dig our heels in, which will have come as a surprise to the elite.

  2. Research by the likes of Bloomberg and CNN as well as The Ministry of The (almost) Bleeding Obvious have come up with the news that taller folk are more likely to become CEO's,become richer and so on.From personal experience I would tend to agree.Police,judges and headmasters also seem to be taller than average.Once this idea of deference has been grasped it follows that taller people are more likely to be politically conservative.. er.. possibly.

  3. I think the answer to the great 'prove the rule' conundrum is that in that expression the word 'prove' is used in its sense of to test. Yes, I know. I need to get out more.

    1. Reminiscent of David Willetts and his torturing of the word "want".

    2. Crumbs! Do give an example.

    3. Almost inconceivable but, once, a government whip was thought to have tried to influence the findings of a select select committee.

    4. Thanks, David. He was obviously reading Jane Austen at the time.

  4. It may boil down to one thing:Food-from Feudalism to the 1960's.In WW1 the specimens of manhood arriving from the slums of London,Glasgow and other great cities surprised and alarmed their taller,better nourished,more likely to be politically conservative commanding officers.These undeniably shorter people may have confounded Karl Marx's prediction several years earlier,but were more likely to be left-leaning than their better fed,more politically conservative compatriots in the shires.However,what they lacked in inches they made up for in size of 'heart.'

    1. The minimum height for First World War volunteers was 5'3" - but when it became obvious that it wasn't all going to be over by Christmas, the height requirement was relaxed, allowing the formation of the Scottish "bantam battalions", where the average height was around 5ft - as you say, tough little bastards, the famous "Devil Dwarfs". As one poet put it:

      Each one a pocket Hercules
      five feet and a bit,
      a kind of Bovril essence
      of six feet British grit.

      The man who lobbied Kitchener to lower the height requirement to accommodate the thousands of volunteers who were rejected because of their stature was the 6'6" MP for Birkenhead, Alfred Bigland.

  5. ...which constitutes the exception that proves the rule.

  6. Sir John French was the C-in-C of the British Expeditionary Force for the first 12-months of WW1. He was 5ft 2in tall. Grand Duke Nicholas Romanov was the Commander of the Russian Army during the same period and he was 6ft 6in tall. Both completely useless.

    Field Marshall "Tiny" Ironside was CIGS for the first 12-months of WW2. He was also 6ft 6in and seriously stupid [the poor bloody infantry...]

    So no "exceptions" here.