A Tall Order: Study Finds Voters’ ‘Ideal Candidate’ Is Taller Than Average

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Reuters/ Jason Reed

Call it small talk, but a new study into voter perceptions has found that Republican front-runner Mitt Romney could hold the edge in next year’s U.S. elections. If only by an inch.

According to a study published in Social Science Quarterly, voters view tall people as better suited for leadership. And with Romney standing at a lofty 6’2″, Obama (who at 6’1″ is no shrimp) might need to start eating his greens if he is to enjoy a second term in the White House.

Eye-grabbing headlines aside though, the facts are compelling. Inspired by a previous “presidential height index” survey, which found the taller candidate has prevailed in 58% of US presidential elections since 1789, researchers asked 467 students at US universities to describe and draw their “ideal national leader” alongside a “typical citizen”.

Results showed that just under two-thirds (64%) of participants drew leaders who were taller than their average citizen. The leaders were on average 12% taller.

(MORE: Want To Run For Political Office? Study Finds You Should Look The Part)

So why do voters have the hots for height? According to lead psychologist Dr. Gregg Murray, the preference could stem from humans’ tribal beginnings. “Our ancestors lived in groups that were constantly engaged in conflicts that were resolved through physical violence,” he told the Guardian. “If you are in a group and the enemy hordes are coming over the hill, what you want them to see is the big person out front so they know they face a tough battle.”

But while Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron stand tall in the 6’1″ club, not all world leaders can claim to be political giants. Both Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and French President Nicolas Sarkozy measure in at just 5’5″, while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is thought to be around the 5’2″ mark.

NewsFeed is sure this has absolutely no bearing on the leaders’ ability to carry out their jobs. But we wouldn’t be surprised to see Obama sporting a pair of heels on the campaign trail.

Jak Phillips is a contributor at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @JakPhillips. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.