Marco Rubio is balding. Will it cost him the presidency?!?

August 11, 2014

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) speaks during a discussion on the American family and cultural values at Catholic University on July 23, 2014 in Washington, DC. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

A political science colleague reports that he received the following e-mail from a reporter:

I am on deadline and doing a piece on Marco Rubio and how his balding hair may impact his chances of winning the presidential election 2016. Can you get back to me at your earliest convenience?

Let’s leave aside the concept of “balding hair” — which I guess is sort of like “freezing heat” — and get to the real issue.

Marco Rubio’s hairline: game-changer…or GAME-CHANGER?

Fortunately, my colleague knew that there is political science to help us:

This study probes one particular component of the well documented linkage between personal appearance and impression formation by investigating the extent to which and the mechanisms through which bald and balding men are underrepresented in high elective office. Study 1 compares the prevalence of hair loss among governors and members of Congress, on the one hand, and the general public, on the other, and concludes that officeholders are much more likely to have a full head of hair than would be expected of men of their age. Study 2 poses an experimental test of voter bias against bald and balding candidates by presenting voters in a simulated congressional race with materials depicting otherwise identical candidates in either their natural bald or balding condition or wearing a professionally fitted hairpiece. No voter bias against bald or balding candidates is apparent, a finding that suggests that the causal mechanism underlying underrepresentation of bald and balding men is not voter bias.

That is from an article co-authored by The Monkey Cage’s own Lee Sigelman, who passed away in 2009 and who, by any standard, suffered from acute balding hair.

So, Senator Rubio, no need for Propecia or implants or this.  Whatever hurdles you may face in 2016, your hairline isn’t one of them.

John Sides is an Associate Professor of Political Science at George Washington University. He specializes in public opinion, voting, and American elections.
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