Tone of Candidates’ Voices Can Make a Difference at the Polls

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Voice pitch may enhance the advantage of men over women in seeking positions of elected office, according to a new study by Florida Atlantic University.

Rindy C. Anderson, Ph.D., co-author and assistant professor of biological sciences in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science at FAU, and her colleagues sought to examine how voice pitch influences perceptions of the speaker in an effort to better understand why voters prefer leaders with lower voices.

Dr. Rindy Anderson/ Photo courtesy of FAU
Dr. Rindy Anderson/ Photo courtesy of FAU

“It is already known that voters prefer leaders with lower-pitched voices, because they are perceived as being stronger, having greater physical prowess, being more competent, and having greater integrity,” said Dr. Anderson. “Our study tested the idea that voters might prefer candidates with lower voices because these candidates are perceived as being older, and thus more experienced.”

Dr. Anderson and her collaborators studied the influence of perceived strength, competence and age on preference for candidates with lower voices in a two-part study.

“This study shows that even though voters may consciously consider their political preferences when voting for candidates, they also are influenced by subtle nuances and may not even be aware of them,” according to Dr. Anderson. “These factors prompt them to make judgments based on subjective reactions and may not be relevant to a candidate’s leadership ability.”

While findings from this study add to the understanding of why voters prefer leaders with lower voices, the researchers state that there is a need to conduct further studies to test whether individuals with lower voices are actually stronger and more competent leaders.

Perceptions of Competence, Strength, and Age Influence Voters to Select Leaders with Lower-pitched Voices” is co-authored by Anderson, Casey Klofstad, Ph.D., associate professor of political science at the University of Miami (Coral Gables), College of Arts and Sciences; and Stephen Nowicki, Ph.D., Bass Fellow and professor of biology at Duke University.