An Experimental Study of the Role of Weight Bias in Candidate Evaluation




Obese individuals are evaluated negatively and attributed negative trait characteristics in several contexts including employment, health care, and education. The current experimental study of college students examined the effect of body mass on the evaluation of political candidates and examined whether the gender of the candidate moderated the relationship. A series of ordinary least squares regression analyses found an interactive effect between candidate obesity and candidate gender for global evaluation and for several trait characteristics. Specifically, obese female candidates were evaluated more negatively than nonobese female candidates and nonobese male candidates were evaluated more negatively than were obese male candidates. This interaction persisted even after controlling for standard political and demographic characteristics of the evaluator. These findings suggest that weight bias exists for obese female political candidates, but that larger body size may be an asset for male candidates. The ability of candidates to be successful may depend less on their policy positions or even party affiliation and more on their physical attributes than has been previously assumed.