June 22nd, 2007
04:51 PM ET
9 years ago

You must be 'this tall' to be president?

From left to right: Teddy Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Bloomberg, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and George Washington.

From left to right: Clinton, Edwards,Obama, Bloomberg, Romney,McCain, Giuliani.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – The taller you are, the better chances you have at becoming Leader of the Free World. Or so says New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has suggested size matters.

Earlier this week, the former Wall Street billionaire fueled speculation that he is considering an independent White House bid after he dropped his affiliation with the GOP. On Wednesday, Bloomberg, again, flatly denied he was a candidate, and has joked that his height may figure into that decision.

"How can a 5-foot-7, divorced, billionaire Jew running as an independent from New York possibly have a chance?" Bloomberg asked in May.

If indeed height plays any factor in the 2008 presidential race, Bloomberg’s got plenty of competition. If he ran, given the existing field, Bloomberg would be the shortest male contender, and only one inch taller than his fellow New Yorker, Democratic White House hopeful Hillary Clinton.

Among the remaining top polling GOP and Democratic candidates, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama are the tallest – Romney is at 6-foot-2 inches, and Obama is at least 6-foot-1. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani both measure in at exactly 6-feet each; while Arizona Sen. John McCain is 5-foot-9 inches.

We may never know to what extent – if any – a candidate’s height plays in voters’ minds; but based purely on the numbers – if recent elections are any indication – size does matter: shorter candidates generally win.

Take the last four presidential races: In 2004 and 2000, 5-foot-11 inch President George W. Bush defeated taller, Democratic rivals, 6-foot-4 Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and 6-foot-1 former Vice President Al Gore, respectively. Six-foot-3 inch former Vice President George H.W. Bush lost by a wide margin, and a half-inch to shorter, to  former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton in 1992. But former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole got the short end of the stick in 1996 when Clinton defeated the 6-foot-1 Republican. Clinton is an inch and half taller.

The further you go back, the less height would seem to matter. Former Presidents John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and George Washington were all 6 feet or taller. President Theodore Roosevelt was 5-foor-8 inches. James Madison (not pictured) is the shortest president in American history at 5-foot-4 inches.

Abraham Lincoln stands the tallest at 6-foot-4, but that could all change if former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson jumps into the 2008 race: at 6-foot-5 inches he stands a full 10 inches taller than the current New York City mayor.

What do you think? Does height matter to you? Was this a helpful or interesting post or just plain ridiculous? Add your comments below.

soundoff (173 Responses)
  1. Jason Francis, Beaverton OR

    I remember watching one of those "investigative reports" on TV a few years back about this phenomenon. They took groups of women into a room with a one-way mirror view of a room filled with men and asked them which they were more attracted too. Then they began to fill in some details about each of the prospects to see how much difference their stature made. Apparantly tallness is a big factor for most women. The group of men were all over six feet save one who was like 4'11" or some such. The short guy was described as good with kids, an excellent cook with a prosperous career while his taller competition were described as ex-convicts and former wife beaters. Never the less, the short guy came out dead last.

    Oh, and I also noticed that the article didn't mention Fred Thompson whose supposed to be somewhere around 6'5". Maybe that's the reason he's coming up in the polls.

    June 22, 2007 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  2. Reed Richards, NYC, NY

    Height matters in that it determines a person's personality and level of confidence. It's been said that a person's adult self is largely determined by his high school self. This may be more true for males than females. But... a person generally develops his confidence level in high school, and one of the leading indicators of how confident a man will be in his adulthood is his height and his athletic ability from when he was in high school.

    That being said, it doesn't so much matter what a person's height is when he's a full grown adult as much as when he was a teenager. For example, if two boys are both 5'6" when they 16 yrs. old, they will have a similar amount of confidence as adults, regardless of whether one reaches a full height that is significantly taller than the other.

    June 22, 2007 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  3. Romulus, Rochester, MN

    Just another psycho survey collecting meaningless data because the real issues are too hard to report in a sanitized media environment.

    June 22, 2007 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  4. Phalange, MA

    Nice trivia!

    June 22, 2007 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  5. Jason Fremont, California

    My initial reaction is that this is rediculous. However the more I think about it I do believe that it does play a subconcious factor in the mind of a swing voter. It would not matter to me. I vote based on moral issues so I have never voted for anyone who was not a Republican. Extreme liberals are going to vote for a Democrate no matter what. However the swing voters (and swing states) typically decide who the president will be. Therefore I feel that this is a very important factor.

    June 22, 2007 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  6. Josh, Denver, Colorado

    Height doesn't matter to me. I'm not abdicating we vote for neanderthals, but I don't mind having a president who is taller than other world leaders. Take for instance, the recent photos of Bush and Putin at G8–if George W. Bush ever had to brawl with Putin, my money is on W. I would love to see some photos of Ahmadinejad next to the 08 candidates–even Hillary could top him.

    June 22, 2007 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  7. Laura, Kansas City, MO

    HA what a joke. Why should it matter how tall you are. Short people rock no matter what!

    June 22, 2007 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  8. Jeremy, Austin TX

    Of course height doesn't matter, as suggested earlier... Honesty,
    Experience, Integrity, Generosity, and Trustworthy
    are the characteristics we should look for in a new President. Wait…the words do spell HEIGHT, may be it does matter after all.

    June 22, 2007 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  9. Jeff, Columbus, Ohio

    Heightism is as damaging as racism. If you replace "height" with "black" or "hispanic" in some of these comments, those people would immediately be ostracized as racists. It astounds me that people to still view short vs. tall as any sort of qualitative criteria.

    BTW, Napoleon (5'6") was taller than the average European male for the time he lived.

    June 22, 2007 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  10. KD, Covina, CA

    Only an idiot will come up with that dumb ideology that height has something to do with choosing a president. What matters MOST is that a candidates' ability to lead a nation without compromising his judgement as the leader of a civilization.

    June 22, 2007 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  11. Yours Truly, Austin TX

    In this world (of double standards and increasing number of stupid voters) height is important ... but so is charisma ... but above all is one's capability to be immensly smart. The President (of USA or a local Lions Club) is like the face of that unit he heads. A President should know both how to walk the walk and talk the talk else they would end up being a Clinton (not smart) or a Bush(not smart and zero charisma).

    June 22, 2007 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  12. Jim Higgins

    Ibelieve that a taller person would tend to have more self confidence in him/herself and may affect decision making and how a president may respond or act upon advice from those who work for him/her.

    June 22, 2007 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  13. Julie Delpho, San Antonio, TX

    If you look at the Presidential contenders since 1960, Nixon being the exception, the more handsome candidate won each time. One of the closest races was Bush/Gore, both men being attractive. I'm not saying the better candidate won in each case, I'm just saying we are an image conscious society.

    June 22, 2007 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  14. Craig

    You must be this tall to be president

    Ok your graphic shows people who look to be between 5' 5" and 6'. Well that seems to be about the average size of most people. So how tall do you need to be?

    June 22, 2007 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  15. Conrad. Chapel Hill, NC.

    I wonder how this applies to women? Men usually prefer woman to be a bit shorter than they are. If Hillary were 6'2", that's all we would hear about her. It would of course, be way above average, and it would not be a positive attribute.

    June 22, 2007 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  16. Subbu, Chicago, IL

    I think initially, a taller person can have an advantage. However it is that same T.V. coverage that exposes this that can be used to outweigh this initial advantage. If a presidential candidate speaks to the people with clear solutions and displays remarkable intelligence, I think that person will get the vote. Right now, I'd like to to see Angelina Jolie run.

    June 22, 2007 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  17. Jeff, Madison Wisconsin

    Of course it makes a difference whether someone is tall or not. I'm short (5'4") and I find myself with a bias against short people. It is a real shock when I realize half the time they are taller than me.

    Prejudice is certainly part of human nature and right now the only groups you can openly express that disdain are (1) short people, (2) fat people and (3) smokers

    June 22, 2007 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  18. Claudia Budge, Eugene, Oregon

    I think it would be very immature and ridiculous for the American people to give any consideration to a candidate's heigth when deciding who to vote for. Our country, and the world, is in bad shape and we need the best man/woman available. In my opinion, that would be either Al Gore or Michael Bloomberg.

    June 22, 2007 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  19. Maral, IL

    The data flucuates too much to make matter. Height doesn't affect the elections because, as Craig says, all the presidents are in the average height range of around 5'5"-6"

    June 22, 2007 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  20. Tony Williams, New York, NY

    Height shouldn't matter with anything but it does, it used to be the taller person became president. Americans suffer from heightism, that is why most CEOs are over 6 feet tall, taller men make more money than an equally qualified shorter male, and statistically women will choose a tall male over a shorter male 90% of the time. That article would have been completely wrong pre-1992.

    June 22, 2007 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  21. pete, ft. lauderdale,fl

    do one on hat size and then maybe we will get somewhere!

    June 22, 2007 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  22. Michele Gerstel Costello Los Altos California

    Size shouldn't matter, intellect should matter
    If I ever choose a president based on height, I will tell my kids to have me committed because I would be too ignorant to be given the privilege of voting.
    Bloomberg would be an outstanding president. He's thoughtful, a visionary, makes policies good for the betterment of society and is incredibly intelligent.
    But Americans must have other criteria, given they voted for Bush twice. The closest to great that I see: Edwards/Obama in '08.

    June 22, 2007 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  23. Ramon, Miami FL

    I want to THANK Bloomberg for reminding people just how shallow and superficial Americans are.

    June 22, 2007 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  24. Steve, Cape Girardeau, MO

    It's nice to see that Ron Paul is still not considered enough of a candidate to make yet another story. I'm glad to see that CNN's favorites are still represented.

    June 22, 2007 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  25. Vami, San Juan, PR

    Of course it's ridiculous! Why would that possibly influence the elections? That's just plain absurd...
    So why was it again that many people think Obama and Clinton can't win?

    June 22, 2007 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
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