This study investigated whether the leadership competence of an overweight candidate is affected by exposure to weight-stigmatizing and nonstigmatizing messages. Participants read one of four messages—a weight stigma, a health stigma, a competence, or a stigma-reducing message. Fat phobia, weight controllability, partisanship, political activism, and voting behaviors were also measured. Weight controllability bias interacted with the weight stigma message to produce lower evaluations of political leadership competence. Weight controllability also correlated with higher levels of fat phobia regardless of message exposure. The evidence suggests making stigmatizing comments in print/online against a candidate based on a physical characteristic like large size negatively biases public perceptions of political leadership competence. This study of negative competence evaluation directed toward a real politician confirms the findings of earlier experimental studies with fictitious fat politicians.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jenn-anderson/10/