Have you ever wondered how tall the US presidents are? You might be surprised to learn that there is a significant difference between the tallest and the shortest presidents in US history, as well as a correlation between height and electoral success.
According to an article by POTUS.com, Abraham Lincoln was the tallest president at 6 feet 4 inches (193 cm) tall, while James Madison was the shortest president at 5 feet 4 inches (163 cm) tall. The average height of the US presidents is 5 feet 11 inches (180 cm) tall, which is slightly higher than the average height of American men.
But does height matter in politics? A look at the data suggests that it does. The taller candidate has won 22 of 31 US presidential elections since 1900. And in the 2016 election, Donald Trump, who is 6ft 3in (1.9m), had a 3in (7.6cm) advantage over Hillary Clinton.
Why is that? Gregg Murray, a political scientist at Augusta University, explains that “height is a proxy for a number of characteristics that we care about when we’re choosing leaders. It’s associated with strength, intelligence, competence, and honesty.”
Height can also affect voters’ perceptions of candidates’ leadership qualities, charisma, and dominance, as well as their physical attractiveness and health. Christopher Klein, a History.com editor, notes that “there is a long history of Americans preferring tall presidents. George Washington, at 6 feet 2 inches, was a giant for his time. Thomas Jefferson, at 6 feet 2 1/2 inches, towered over his rival John Adams, who was 5 feet 7 inches.”
However, being tall is not a requirement for the presidency, nor a guarantee of success. Some of the most popular and influential presidents, such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan, were of average height or slightly below. And some of the shortest presidents, such as James Madison, Martin Van Buren, and Benjamin Harrison, were also among the most accomplished.
As the 2024 presidential election approaches, the height of the candidates may play a role in their chances of winning. The tallest candidate is Republican Senator Josh Hawley, who stands at 6 feet 4 inches (193 cm) tall, while the shortest candidate is Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar, who is 5 feet 4 inches (163 cm) tall.
But Klobuchar is not worried about the height thing. She says, “I think people know you by your ideas and what you stand for.”
– Presidential Heights | Presidents of the United States (POTUS), POTUS.com, September 3, 2019
– How tall are the 2024 presidential candidates?, The Washington Post, November 10, 2023
– Does height matter in politics? A look at the data, BBC News, November 9, 2023
– The tallest and shortest presidents in U.S. history, History.com, November 7, 2023