The Secret Weapon That Could Push Walker, Bush or Christie Over Trump
Election 2016

The Secret Weapon That Could Push Walker, Bush or Christie Over Trump

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Maybe it’s the protective “father factor” or just a visceral reaction to brute strength, but American voters choose candidates with deep voices.

A new study by the University of Miami and Duke University says low-pitched voices may “harken back to caveman instincts that associate leadership ability with physical prowess more than wisdom and experience.”

One of the study’s co-authors, Casey Klofstad, associate professor at the University of Miami, admits that ideological divides have eclipsed the role of physical strength in modern political conflict. Nevertheless, the results of the previous studies showed that a deep voice connotes not only brawn but also competence and integrity for both men and women. 

Lower voices suggest higher levels of the male hormone testosterone, which can make people stronger and more aggressive. When Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has an average low baritone voice, says, “I’ll be back” in The Terminator, his voice drops noticeably -- and -- it isn’t just for dramatic effect. It’s to show everyone that he means what he says and he will get the job done.

Protecting alpha male status comes easier for some candidates than others. When Al Gore was running for president, he had a perception problem that he was too “soft.” So he hired Naomi Wolf, a former political advisor to Bill Clinton to attract women voters. Wolf’s makeover of Gore into an “alpha male” became fodder late-night comedians and his opponent in the 2,000 election.

There was little doubt about Clinton’s level of testosterone, but he had charming ways of disarming people without being a bully. Aside from biting his lower lip, an affectation that apparently appealed to women, he was soft spoken and open to ideas from a variety of thought leaders.

Clinton was extremely self-confident. When he stood in a room, the combination of his 6’2” frame and his upbeat style made everyone around him feel optimistic.

Perhaps the best example of low-voice and high confidence was Ronald Reagan. As a former radio host and actor, he most certainly knew how to modulate his baritone to great effect. As a politician, he knew how to be self-deprecating—the best way to win over an audience and voters and at the same time show high confidence. But when he needed to be the alpha male, he didn’t hesitate.

Reagan’s speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin was just that moment. He slowed down his words and dropped the timber of his voice, “Mr. Gorbachev—tear down this wall.”

The Duke/Miami study surveyed 800 volunteers about two hypothetical candidates ranging in age from 30 to 70. Then, 400 men and 403 women listened to pairs of recorded voices saying, “I urge you to vote for this November.” Each paired recording was based on one person whose voice pitch was altered up and down with computer software.

The deeper voiced candidates won 60 to 76 percent of the votes. The positive votes were based on perceived strength and competence, not age.

Are any of today’s Republican candidates close getting the nomination or being eliminated because of the quality of the voice? The Fiscal Times took a look at how the voices of the top ten candidates in last week’s debate compared.

Our analysts measured the pitch of each candidate’s voice in last week’s Fox News debate and calculated an average for each. Using software, we took two clips in some cases of each candidate from the Fox News 2016 first presidential debate on August 6th.

GOP Candidates' Voices

We limited our choices to the primetime debate of 10 candidates. If you want to check the debate—or check the numbers below on your own software, here’s a link to the debate on You Tube.  The lower the score, the higher a chance of getting votes, according to the Duke/Miami study..

The results are in the table below:

Candidate Voice Score
Jeb Bush 128.2
Chris Christie 134.7
Scott Walker 135.9
Mike Huckabee 158.9
Ted Cruz 162.5
Ben Carson 169.1
Marco Rubio 171.2
John Kasich 178.7
Donald Trump 180.5
Rand Paul 207.6

If the Duke/Miami study is any guide, Jeb Bush has an advantage in the contest thanks to his deep voice. Christie and Walker are close behind. The big surprise, though, is Trump: With the second highest voice in the GOP field, he may have to get a sinus infection to win!