John Wayne Syndrome: Americans like tall, square-jawed presidents during tough economic times

August 18, 2009

Will Americans go big in 2012? President Obama is a smidgen under 6’2″, Mitt Romney is 6’2″, Sarah Palin is 5’5″ … Tell us more, New Scientist:

When the going gets tough, the presidents get taller. So says social psychologist Terry Pettijohn of Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina.

He looked at the heights, ages and facial attributes of the 11 elected US presidents over the past 75 years, and compared them with economic and social indicators such as unemployment and birth rates. “What we’re seeing is that taller candidates are preferred when times are more difficult,” says Pettijohn.

Hard times also make for presidents with larger chins and smaller eyes, says Pettijohn. He thinks that voters associate these features with strength and maturity – qualities that could be perceived toprovide security in troubled times. The results were presented last week at a meeting of the American Psychological Association in Toronto, Canada.

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how accurate can a sample of 11 be?

Posted by drewbie | Report as abusive

I would’ve said Schwarzenegger is 2012, but given how California is mired in it’s own private depression, I wouldn’t count on that one anymore.

And I agree with drewbie… a survey including other nations of similar make up to America (i.e. democracy, large-scale economy, etc.) would have had more meat.

Posted by the Shah | Report as abusive

@shah – Schwarzenegger can never be President of the Unites States as he is not born citizen and I really don’t foresee that requirement to change in the near future.

Posted by Lindskog | Report as abusive

@Lindskog: You do realize the constitution has not mattered to any president for the past 140 years since Lincoln trampled on it. Presidents have been declaring wars without congressional declarations (required by constitution) for years.

The president can write law (legislate branch) via “executive orders”

The president can execute law (executive branch)

The president can interpret law via “presidential signing statements”

Thus the president can make and enforce laws. Which makes him a dictator.

The president can also unconstitutionally veto anything congress passes (vetoes are allowable only if the law is UNCONSTITUTIONAL, not just if the prez dislikes it).

But go ahead and live in your fantasy world, where the “constitution” matters and government officials “care” about the populace they deceive in order to get elected.

Democracy is “may the best liar win”.

Posted by Jon | Report as abusive

Oh and technically, regardless of the obama “birthers”, McCain was not eligible for the presidency and the “law” passed that says army brats born abroad are “natural born” is unconstitutional. The problem was because army bases abroad do not count as US soil, for example a foreigner can’t have a baby on our embassy or army base and claim citizenship.

So they passed a “law” allowing army brats abroad to be natural born and thus run for president. However, the constitution still says they can’t. It would require a constitutional amendment to make it “constitutional” for McCain to run.

So basically it was legal but unconstitutional. Like I said, the constitution has never mattered to politicians. On another note, there was actual talk of passing an Arnold amendment to the constitution anyways. A well coordinated internet movement helped stop it in it’s tracks tho.

Posted by Jon | Report as abusive

drewbie said “I would’ve said Schwarzenegger is 2012, but given how California is mired in it’s own private depression, I wouldn’t count on that one anymore.’

One small detail ~ the Terminator clearly was not born in the US and thus is not eligible to run for the Presidency. Of course, we have yet to see the birth certificate for O as well ~

Posted by Ken | Report as abusive

@Jon I’m not sure which country you live in, but we have checks and balances in America. You may want to look it up. I’m not going to give a civics lesson, but I’ll tackle one of your remarks:

“The president can also unconstitutionally veto anything congress passes (vetoes are allowable only if the law is UNCONSTITUTIONAL, not just if the prez dislikes it).”

FYI: When a bill is drafted by a committee, it is ratified by the house and senate. The bill goes before the president and vetoes it if he doesn’t like it. A signed veto with explanation is given back to congress. A 2/3 majority of the house and senate is required to override the veto, thus becoming law. Your idea that vetoes are unconstitutional is invalid and also irrelevant because of the override.

The rest of your comments are just as baseless, but good try!

Posted by Shaun | Report as abusive

our government pisses on the constitution. read the 10th amendment.

Posted by dave | Report as abusive

WOW, you people jumped all over the Governator thing… was just trying to be silly 😛

That being said, when the presidency – in any country – is up for grabs, one can always expect the worst out of politicians. The office is a beacon of light in theory, but that doesn’t mean the occupier is in the slightest; usually just the opposite. Vote Nader in 2012! He’s a big guy, and a vegan. Just imagine how much bigger he would’ve been eating all the steriods and growth hormones in meat…

Posted by the Shah | Report as abusive

Look up US Canal Zone Panama, it was a US territory at the time.

Posted by Conor | Report as abusive

this is ridiculous …just more garble for anti-American sentiment fueled by the likes of Barack Obama

Posted by Tracy Jobe | Report as abusive

I usually don’t read comments, much less respond to jejune remarks, but the pure ignorance of the citizenship arguments are getting obnoxiously embarrassing: Whether Obama or McCain were born in Kenya, China, or the middle of the Sahara, the fact that one of their parents was a US citizen at the time of birth automatically makes them a natural-born US citizen!

Posted by americanbychoice | Report as abusive

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Posted by south beach vegan | Report as abusive