It is well-known that non-human animals respond to information encoded in vocal signals, and the same can be said of humans. Specifically, human voice pitch affects how speakers are perceived. As such, does voice pitch affect how we perceive and select our leaders? To answer this question we recorded men and women saying “I urge you to vote for me this November.” Each recording was manipulated digitally to yield a higher- and lower-pitched version of the original. We then asked men and women to vote for either the lower- or higher-pitched version of each voice. Our results show that both men and women select male and female leaders with lower voices. These findings suggest that because women, on average, have higher-pitched voices than men, voice pitch could be a factor that contributes to fewer women holding leadership roles than men.
Overall, then, I’d say there’s evidence that a white-knight candidate can succeed in executive office if he comes either from a government-dominated business sector such as telecoms where lobbying and politics are a major part of the business, or if he has been a senior officer in the secret police. White-knight leaders’ terms, if politically successful, probably lead to tremendous increases in corruption, clientelism, and centralised executive power, and to bitter political polarisation. White-knight leaders generally end their terms refusing to relinquish power, and embroiled in legal difficulties or popular uprisings. So I’m not generally optimistic about the idea of electing non-politicians to fix the mess in Washington. How about you?
We are pleased to welcome Larry Bartels as an occasional contributor at The Monkey Cage. He is Professor of Political Science and Shayne Chair of Public Policy and Social Science at Vanderbilt University. His most recent book, Unequal Democracy, was the subject of a roundtable here on the blog. A copy of his vita is here. For other posts mentioning his work, see here. We lo
In the political science literature, DW-NOMINATE scores a the most prominent measure of the ideology of members of Congress. This graph plots the standard deviation in those scores from the 84th through 111th Congresses (basically 1955-2010). The larger the standard deviation, the more ideological heterogeneity there is in the party.
In the earlier part of this period, the Democrats were clearly more heterogeneous, as one might expect in a party with defined liberal Northern and conservative Southern wings. But over this period, ideological heterogeneity in the Democratic Party decreases substantially. By about the 104th Congress (after the “Republican Revolution” of 1994), the parties are equally heterogeneous. And that has continued to be true. Via email, Smith says:
There is hardly any difference since start of the Gingrich era (he became Republican whip in 1989). ”Gingrichism” encouraged a disciplined party to sharpen differences (he thought the public was on his side) and force Democrats to cast more difficult votes (he thought this would put Democrats from conservative districts in danger). Republicans gave this strategy credit for the 1994 victory. For detail, see Barbara Sinclair’s Party Wars.
Democrats’ reputation for less discipline, or at least less cohesiveness, was certainly deserved in the period between the late 1930s and 1980s.