Some deep-voiced politicians sound tough – but according to a new study, that may actually be a way of predicting whether they really are. Don’t be surprised if voters seem to prefer political candidates with lower voices in the next presidential election. The question that remains is: caveman instinct and political voting, is this a formula for failure?
THE DEEPER THE BETTER
In a new study published in the open access journal PLOS ONE, researchers found that deep-voiced candidates gathered over half of the votes when compared to their counterparts with higher pitches.
Our preference for leaders with lower-pitched voices is a throwback to our “caveman instincts” that associate leadership with physical strength more than wisdom and experience, researchers from the University of Miami and Duke University suggested.
STONE AGE POLITICS
“Modern-day political leadership is more about competing ideologies than brute force,” said study co-author Dr. Casey Klofstad, an associate professor of political science at Miami. “But at some earlier time in human history it probably paid off to have a literally strong leader.”
Deep-voiced politicians appear to convey greater physical strength, competence and integrity in both male and female candidates. Studies have found that lower-pitched voices generally have higher testosterone, and are physically stronger and more aggressive. Just think of Conan the Barbarian.
But as we have evolved into Homo Modernus, what does physical strength have to do with leadership in our modern age?
WHY VOICE MATTERS
That led researchers to test the theory. The study consisted of two parts. Firstly, 800 participants were surveyed online about their voting preferences. They were provided with information about candidates’ age and gender. Those in their 40s and 50s were voters’ most popular choice.
Secondly, participants listened to recordings of a candidate, who urged participants to lend them their support like they would in real life. The pitch of the voice was altered up and down, and the deep-voiced politicians received 60 to 76 percent of the vote.
HUMANS AND THE ANIMAL KINGDOM
Klofstad argued that we are not so different from the rest of the animal kingdom. Humans too appear to be affected by “subtle non-verbal vocal cues just as a bird would be.”
We like to think we make conscious, rational decisions about who to vote for based on meticulous consideration of the different candidates, but this research suggests that sometimes unconsciously we also make “thin impressionistic judgments”.
DO DEEP-VOICED POLITICIANS HAVE A COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE?
If we start following our guts in politics we may set ourselves up for failure. Voices are not always a reliable indicator of leadership ability.
“Becoming more aware of the biases influencing our behavior at the polls may help us control them or counteract them if they’re indeed leading us to make poor choices,” Klofstad said.
These findings match those of a separate study, in which the authors calculated the voice pitch of candidates in the 2012 U.S. House of Representatives elections. Lower-voiced politicians were more likely to win their elections.
In light of this latest research, Newsweek took a look at some recent battles of political voices and pointed out that Barack Obama’s voice is so smooth that an entire YouTube channel, Barackdubs is dedicated to it. Just a coincidence?
What do you think of deep-voiced politicians having an advantage and collecting more votes? Share your views in the comments section below.