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. Randy Hurst

    Fram a psychological perspective, height may suggest leadership ability, but that does not explain Napolean.

    June 22, 2007 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  2. Michael, Wallingford CT

    Why didn't you put Fred Thompson in there? He is the tallest and would tower over those other midgets!

    June 22, 2007 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  3. Desi Ralph, Ohio

    Interesting but completely irrelevant.

    June 22, 2007 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  4. donald hinkel


    you said it eould seem shorter wins- but you're looking at only four elections. the reality is that less than 10% of the male population of the U.S. is 6' or taller, BUT 70% of all American presidents hve been 6' or taller. that is a clear descrepency.

    June 22, 2007 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  5. A.S. Salt Lake City, Utah

    The CNN editor needs to review this article. The editing of "former Vice President George H.W. Bush" was not removed such that there is "Vice" with a line through it. Intersting article, though.

    June 22, 2007 06:21 pm at 6:21 pm |
  6. Joseph, Lake Bluff, IL

    I thought it was really interesting.

    Height, on its own, doesn't matter to me. However, it affects the candidates prescene on stage and when speaking, so it has an indirect impact.

    June 22, 2007 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  7. April, somewhere, USA

    Corey from Bellingham, WA I think someone must have hacked into Wikipedia because the first sentence on the Abraham Lincoln page is:

    "Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was President of the United States from March 4, 1861 to April 15, 1865"

    Anyway, that story only deals with the men who made it to office which means that it wasn't the popular vote but the Electoral College that chose. So, they can't really say that the American population chose these generally shorter men because in some instances the Electoral voters didn't vote with the popular votes. (They do have the power to go against the "commoner’s" vote if it is believed to be incorrect.)

    This article shouldn’t even mention the people’s vote but rather the Electoral College votes.

    June 22, 2007 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  8. P. Donnelly, Buffalo, NY

    Who's the genius at CNN that added Michael Bloomberg to the photo of Presidents? Last I checked, he hadn't been elected. NYC editors playing a practical joke to start the weekend?

    June 22, 2007 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  9. Brian Fitzgerald, Sacramento, Ca

    Absolutely hieght matters. Plenty of research has been done based on height and success. More CEO's are taller. More succesful salespeople are taller. Presidents are taller. Taller folks grow up in a world where there is level of superiority because you are tall. That confidence, advantages that come their way give them more security in who they are. The other side of the coin–most folks want to follow and they'll follow a tall person more times that a short one.

    June 22, 2007 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  10. Sabrina, Pittsburgh, PA

    Cute CNN.
    However, I think media bias is a bigger issue than candidate height. Where is Dennis Kucinich in your graph? In fact, where is your coverage of Dennis Kucinich period? You bothered to at least post an article about Gravel's bizarre youtube videos- how about a little coverage of the one man running for president who consistently talks about (and votes for!) the peace and change we all want to see in the world.

    Isn't it your place to help level the information playing field for the American People?

    June 22, 2007 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  11. richard zelle, LA, Cal

    bloomberg would be an excellent choice. he is "head and shoulders" above anyone else we have today..harry truman wasn't that tall..but he was great...bloomberg is in the truman mold

    June 22, 2007 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  12. Jason, Seattle WA

    If the American public is using height to determine their canidate (which I'm sure the brain dead populace is) then we are in serious trouble.

    June 22, 2007 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  13. Carl, Kensington, CT

    It matters, to the extent that the more information I have when evaluationg and comparing candidates the better.

    Lack of height would be a factor when judging personality and temperment.

    For me, a short male candidate would need to be comfortable with who they are; not overcompensating for who they are not.

    By the way, does anyone know how tall Senator Webb (D-Va) is?

    June 22, 2007 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  14. ma

    it might sound ridiculous, but height does play an important role even when it comes to get a regular job. And people seem to pay a lot of attention to it. Take for example the former mexican president, he, for the first time was taller than the US president, and Mexicans felt really good about it.
    Although at the end of a term, the height of the president is the last important thing, in the case of GW Bush, we are fortunate that he is not taller, otherwise the taller the more mistakes he will make.

    June 22, 2007 06:55 pm at 6:55 pm |
  15. Rob O'Heney, Arlington, VA

    I think the interesting thing here is not that the taller or shorter of two candidates prevails. It's that we seldom give the time of day to a candidate who isn't at least above average height. Bloomberg, the noted shortstack is apparently an exception; though only somewhat. While he did win his re-election in 2005 by the largest margin in the history of NYC, his campaign spent nearly five times that of his opponent(Wikipedia). Self-financing in this case was the pair of stilts Bloomberg needed. And they worked. But he is what you may call a statistical outlier. Hopefully we're not eliminating shorter, more qualified candidates before they're even out of the gate in the presidential race. In the book "Blink" Malcolm Gladwell calls this The Warren Harding Error. It may be human nature, subconscious behavior, whatever. But we should all try open our eyes a little bit. We may miss big things from those of smaller stature.

    June 22, 2007 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  16. E, Charlotte NC

    Princeton researchers have found that taller people earn more because they're smarter. Perhaps height should be a consideration.

    June 22, 2007 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  17. Craig, Detroit Michigan

    How many people actually see the candidates in person?

    June 22, 2007 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  18. J Baumann, Temecula, CA

    CNN must be getting pretty desperate for story ideas.

    June 22, 2007 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  19. Enrique Loncán, Cary, NC

    Height has nothing to do with it. Americans know what's important and everyone knows that the winner is always the one with the better hair. A new study is on he work...

    June 22, 2007 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  20. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Height doesn't matter but if the President is 5'11" and arrogant, it might matter.

    June 22, 2007 07:20 pm at 7:20 pm |
  21. Joe Taylor Napa, CA

    It all depends on how high you want to pile the crap!

    June 22, 2007 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  22. Glenda, Arlington Tx

    Along these statistical lines - Most presidents were born at home - the first US President to be born in a hospital was Jimmy Carter. My six year old daughter was born at home. Since very few children are born at home nowadays this makes her very likely to be president one day :)!!!

    June 22, 2007 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  23. Pugas, Prescott, AZ

    I agree with Brian and Carl. Being tall saved me from many fights but could of been a hinderence trying to climb the "corporate ladder."

    June 22, 2007 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  24. John, Boston, Massachusetts

    Many short men are insecure. How many "alpha" males do you know that are short-statured.

    The last thing we need is an insecure president that feels compensates for his height by trying to show his power. Look at Kim Jong Il of North Korea. His diminutive height certainly factors into his actions.

    All short men aren't insecure. It's just that the majority of the voting public discounts the shorter guys. Look at Kucinich – few take him seriously and largely it's because of his short stature.

    June 22, 2007 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  25. Kenneth Nguyen

    Yes, I think it matters.

    Look back at Michael Dukakus, a short guy from Massachusettes some two decades ago. The US would be embarrassing if we see Mr. Dukakus standing next to either Mitterand or Chiraque of France.

    Just like we have been saying "Dress for Success" great images of a US President do count.

    I can only wish that someday there will be a minimum requirement of a US presidential candidate, that is "he must be at least 6 feet tall" or "she must be at least 5 feet 8 inches tall"

    June 22, 2007 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
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