New research suggests that muscular men are more likely to be regarded as holding conservative or right-wing views. The study, conducted by the University of Arkansas, recruited over 200 students to partake in several experiments to explore the link between political leanings and physical strength.
According to the Daily Mail, researchers asked 203 students, most of whom were women, to rank images of eight men based on their perceived strengths before guessing their political affiliations. In addition, the participants were asked to identify who among the men they believed was most likely to oppose liberal policies such as high taxes, abortion, and immigration.
The study concluded that competitive men who are physically strong “appeared more conservative” to respondents, specifically those perceived to have significant upper-body strength. Physically weaker men, in contrast, were not regarded as being either conservative or liberal.
“Our results provide relatively consistent evidence for men’s upper body strength being a heuristic for specific coalitional status and related motivations,” explains the study’s authors. “Participants viewed strong men to espouse more conservative viewpoints, providing a perceptual corollary for work showing how social bargaining power through strength shapes endorsement of social rule.”
Despite the results conflating strength with conservative politics, skeptics question the validity of these claims. According to clinical psychologists Dr. Gurpreet Kaur and Dr. Louise Goddard-Crawley, there is more nuance to this topic than the study states.
“While political beliefs are shaped by a complex interplay of personal experiences, values, and socio-cultural factors, it’s crucial to recognise that these are only associations and do not imply causation,” explained Kaur. “People of various political orientations can possess varying degrees of physical strength, and it’s not a reliable indicator of their political beliefs.”
Goddard-Crawley added: “Attempting to explain political orientation solely based on physical strength oversimplifies the issue. Perceptions of physical strength can be subjective and influenced by cultural or personal biases. What one person considers ‘strong’ or ‘weak’ can vary widely.”
News of the study’s results has sparked mixed reactions online, with some conservative X users expressing amusement at the results.
“That’s just common sense,” one user wrote. Another posted a photo of former One Direction star Harry Styles wearing a dress, sarcastically captioning it: “And it’s a total mystery as to why.”
But other, more liberal social media users took exception to the findings. Jason Colavito, a writer for CNN, was among those who criticized the results.
“A new study claims strong, muscular men are conservative while wimpy guys are liberal, but the study actually only studied ‘perception’ (i.e., stereotypes) and dressed it up in evolutionary psychology without checking to see if it correlates to reality,” wrote Colavito.