Do bald guys always lose?

Do bald guys always lose?

Are electorates follically prejudiced?
There are all sorts of patterns that exist in politics. Some are entirely coincidental, such as every US president elected in a year ending in zero dying in office from 1840 to 1960 (and Reagan – elected in 1980 – was shot but survived); others have a relatively clear mathematical and logical link, such as the relationship between the vote share of a party and the seats it’s likely to win.
Then there are others that exist in a kind of limbo-world, where there’s evidence to suggest that there might be a relationship but there’s also so much else going on that it could just be random noise that looks like a trend – a dangerous thing if used as the basis for betting.

Which brings us to bald leaders. There simply aren’t many, especially considering that most politicians are men. Even more noticeably, even when a party gets behind a bald leader, they don’t tend to do very well. In the UK, William Hague lead the Conservatives to a second successive disastrous showing in 2001. He was succeeded by the even balder Iain Duncan-Smith, who failed to even make it to an election, being replaced mid-term by Michael Howard, who also went on to lose, and who was hardly luxuriantly coiffured either.

The situation’s little better in the other parties. Labour lost the 1992 election when Neil Kinnock was unexpectedly beaten by John Major – Kinnock’s second defeat. And after Charles Kennedy was ousted by the Lib Dems, Ming Campbell lasted only twenty months as leader before resigning, emulating IDS by never having lead his party at a general election.

In fact, the only bald prime ministers the UK’s elected since the start of the 20th Century have been Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee – who fought against each other so didn’t provide the electorate with a choice. When Attlee took on Baldwin in 1935 and Eden in 1955, both of whom had a full head of hair, Labour lost.

The situation is similar in the United States. It’s rare for either major candidate not to have a full head of hair. John McCain is the only one who comes close since the 1950s, when Eisenhower and Stevenson battled it out. Indeed, Eisenhower is the only bald president the US has had since the 1840s – quite incredible given that all occupants of the White House have been male and most were into at least their fifties.

This isn’t to suggest that baldness is the sole or main determining factor in how people vote. The Conservatives would not have beaten Labour in 2001 if Michael Fabricant rather than William Hague had lead the party in opposition to Tony Blair.

It does seem to me that however that it might be more than just coincidence; that when looking for a leader, an electorate will tend towards someone who is if not youthful, the whose appearance doesn’t emphasise an aspect associated with the more elderly, when other things are relatively equal.

David Herdson

Mike Smithson is on holiday (which may be just as well given the content of the article)




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