Candidates' (Vocal) Pitch Plays Into Appeal

In a new study, scientists found that listeners were more likely to cast their vote for the candidate with the deeper voice, regardless of the candidate's gender. Host Rachel Martin reports.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

So what does it take to win an election: A clear message, a strong organization, good hair? How about deep pipes?

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: It's my view that the administration's policies are actually designed on purpose to bring about higher gas prices.

MARTIN: That's Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell who has won a few elections in his day.

In a study published in a British biological research journal, 17 women and 10 men recorded the phrase: I urge you to vote for me this November. Each voice was then manipulated electronically into pairs, one higher and one lower than the original.

Scientists found that listeners were more likely to cast their vote for the deeper voice, whether the candidate was male or female.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Democrats have committed to reigniting the American dream.

MARTIN: That's low-talking House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

SENATOR HARRY REID: Today, Nevada chose hope over fear...

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

MARTIN: But then what do we make of Senate majority leader Harry Reid?

REID: Nevada chose to move forward, not backwards.

MARTIN: Well, there's an exception to every rule.

And what about our remaining Republican presidential candidates: Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Too high? Too Low? Just right?

MITT ROMNEY: He came into office. And there was one job that was front and center. And that was to keep the economy from going off a cliff.

RON PAUL: I want to cut money - overseas money. That's what I want to do. I want to cut military money.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

NEWT GINGRICH: I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder...

RICK SANTORUM: People have said, you know, you're being outspent and, you know, everybody is talking about all the math and all the things that...

MARTIN: Professor Casey Klofstad, of the University of Miami, authored one of the deep voice studies. He says, candidates already know about this and they have been using vocal coaches to enhance their electability.

So, what about a politician who speaks in a low voice but sings like this?

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (Singing) I'm...

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: That's President Barack Obama singing Al Green.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: (Singing) ...so in love with you...

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'M STILL IN LOVE WITH YOU")

AL GREEN: (Singing) Whatever you want to do is all right with me, 'cause you make me feel so brand new. And I...

MARTIN: And you're listening to NPR News.

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