Jan 29, 2010    #006
Contact: Laura Byerley
(816) 235-1592

Study finds weight bias affects female political candidate evaluations

UMKC psychology and political science professors' research appears in

According to a University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) study published in "Obesity" journal, weight gain does not just harm the careers of models and actors. According to "An Experimental Study of the Role of Weight Bias in Candidate Evaluation," obese female political candidates are often negatively evaluated and attributed negative trait characteristics.

The study was conducted by Dr. Jennifer Lundgren, assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Psychology and Dr. Beth Miller, assistant professor in the College of Arts and Sciences' Department of Political Science.

"Our findings suggest that the ability of candidates - especially female candidates - to be successful may depend less on their policy positions and more on stereotypes associated with physical attributes than has been previously assumed," Miller said. "As a result, the existence of fair competition and representation is questionable if obese female candidates are evaluated more negatively and attributed more negative trait characteristics than their male counterparts."

While the findings suggest that weight bias exists for obese female political candidates, larger body size may be an asset for male candidates. In fact, non-obese male candidates were evaluated more negatively than obese male candidates. This interaction persisted even after controlling for standard political and demographic characteristics of the evaluator.

Although Miller said the study's implications are intriguing, they are in need of further examination. The professors' long-term goal is to examine the effect of weight bias on the voting patterns of Americans.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience.

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