Pump Up the Bass: Voters Prefer Deep-Voiced Politicians

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Rick D'Elia / Corbis

Presidential hopefuls may want to start channeling Barry White. Researchers found that voters were more likely to cast their ballots for candidates with lower-pitched voices, and tended to rate them as more dominant and more trustworthy. (Lucky you, Herman Cain.)

Participants in the study, published in the journal of Evolution and Human Behavior, were asked to listen to archival voice recordings of nine U.S. presidents. The researchers, from Canada’s McMaster University, created higher- and lower-pitched versions of each voice. Listeners were then asked to assess the attractiveness, honesty, leadership potential and intelligence — among other qualities — of the speakers.

For nearly every attribute they were asked to rate, participants were significantly more likely to prefer the deeper voice. The only category in which higher voices won? Most Likely to Be Involved in a Government Scandal. (This was, notably, the only negative attribute for which the researchers tested.)

In the preface to their study, the researchers noted that the scientific evidence has often favored basses to tenors. Previous studies have found that both men and women find men with deeper voices more attractive and more dominant. And in eight U.S. presidential elections between 1960 and 2000, the candidate with the deeper voice has won the popular vote.

In the current study, participants were also asked which version of the voice they would vote for, both in peacetime and wartime. The baritones were the winners. Voters should take this bias into account when they’re in the booth, the authors suggest.

As for the candidates in the running, the researchers say male politicians might want to artificially lower their voice pitch in audio recordings to woo voters. Which could lead to some hilarious, if not productive, campaigning.

Future research will gauge potential voters’ perceptions of female politicians, the authors said.

Katy Steinmetz is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @KatySteinmetz. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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