Does a candidate’s testosterone level affect voters?

Yesterday, science writers across the nation reported on a fascinating new study: Fatherhood causes a drop in testosterone level. Researchers measured testosterone in a bunch of young guys (none of whom were fathers yet), then measured it again several years. All men experience a drop in testosterone as they age, but those who became fathers experienced much sharper drops than those who did not.

I got thinking: Is there a political angle? I poked around. Here’s what I found.

First, in 2008, a study found that men who vote for the loser experience a drop in testosterone levels. Male voters had their testosterone measured several times before and after the presidential election results were announced. McCain voters experienced a drop in testosterone once they learned that their guy lost. Obama voters experienced no change in testosterone levels. Awesome.

Second, a 2007 study found that candidates with more “masculine” faces win more votes during war time, whereas candidates with more “feminine” faces win more votes during peace time. The study noted that testosterone levels are linked with the “masculinity” of a candidate’s face. (All candidate faces used in the study were male; “masculine” and “feminine” is the authors’ interesting way of describing facial features like a square jaw.)

The first study is fun but irrelevant to this new study about fathers. But, if we really stretch things, it’s possible that the second study is relevant to this new fatherhood study. Perhaps having lots of children could (eventually) have the effect of making your face more of a “peace time” face than a “war time” face.

Of course, we’re taking a single study about fatherhood, and making a tenuous link to a single study about facial effects. Take it with a huge grain of salt.

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About Adam Brown

Adam Brown is an associate professor of political science at Brigham Young University and a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. You can learn more about him at his website.
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