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Caveman politics: why it's height that really matters in the corridors of power

Men of standing world leaders who prove (and disprove) the theory

Forget solid policies or reliable promises. What people most want from their political leaders is height.

A study by Texas Tech University indicates that the electorate has a universal preference for tall leaders with a "physically formidable" stature because of "caveman politics". French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi both stand at 5ft 5ins tall and are among several world leaders of below-average height.

However, the report says favouring tall people is a prehistoric trend, now applied to political leadership races. Early humans preferred their larger peers as leaders because they were thought to have better survival skills, it asserts.

"Some traits and instincts that may have been acquired through evolution continue to manifest themselves in modern life," said Gregg R Murray, political science professor and co-author of the report. "We believe similar traits exist in politics."

Inspired by the Presidential Height Index, which shows that the taller candidates won 58 per cent of US presidential elections between 1789 and 2008, Dr Murray and his colleagues asked students to draw a "typical citizen" and an "ideal national leader". Of the 467 people surveyed, 64 per cent drew a taller leader and shorter citizen.

With Republican presidential hopefuls Rick Perry and Mitt Romney both standing at more than 6ft, he asserts Barack Obama (6ft 1ins) may meet his match in 2012. But if European trends are anything to go by, Mr Obama can make short shrift of that prophesy.