Heights of presidents and presidential candidates of the United States

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Presidents have grown taller over time as shown using linear trend estimation

A record of the heights of the presidents and presidential candidates of the United States is useful for evaluating what role, if any, height plays in presidential elections in the United States. Some observers have noted that the taller of the two major-party candidates tends to prevail, and argue this is due to the public's preference for taller candidates.[1]

The tallest U.S. president was Abraham Lincoln at 6 feet 4 inches (193 centimeters), while the shortest was James Madison at 5 feet 4 inches (163 centimeters).

Joe Biden, the current president, is 6 feet 0 inches (183 centimeters) according to a physical examination summary from February 2024.[2]

U.S. presidents by height order[edit]

Abraham Lincoln at 6 ft 4 in (193 cm) surmounts Lyndon B. Johnson as the tallest president
James Madison, the shortest president, was 5 ft 4 in (163 cm)

Electoral success as a function of height[edit]

Graph of winner vs. loser heights in presidential elections from 1789–2004

Folk wisdom about U.S. presidential politics holds that the taller of the two major-party candidates always wins or almost always wins since the advent of the televised presidential debate.[16]

There are more data if the relationship of electoral success to height difference starts from the year 1900, rather than from the beginning of televised debates. In the thirty-one presidential elections between 1900 and 2020, twenty-one of the winning candidates have been taller than their opponents, while nine have been shorter, and one was the same height. On average the winner was 1.20 inches (3.0 cm) taller than the loser.[45]

However, it may be argued that drawing the line at any date ignores the fact that pictorial depictions of presidential hopefuls have been available to the American public at large well before debates were televised. Stereographs were widely used as a form of photojournalism for historical events (including political events) by the 1870s.[46] Cutting off the date at 1900 excludes the seven presidential elections immediately preceding where the taller candidate won only once (which, when included, partially equalizes the ratio to 22 taller vs. 14 shorter winners between 1872 and 2020). Considering that political cartoons and text-based descriptions of candidates have been a staple of American politics since the beginning, one could argue that Americans have always been able to compare candidates by height. Thus, upon including all elections until 2020 where the heights of each candidate are known, the average height of the winner above the loser drops to a mere 0.39 inches (1.0 cm);[47] this average height difference becomes little more than a round-off error—a mere 0.21 inches (0.5 cm)—when excluding the 2016 election, in which gender not only accounted for the height difference, but was likely the greater physical distinction between the two main candidates than height.[47]

The claims about taller candidates winning almost all modern presidential elections is still pervasive, however. Examples of such views include:

  • In Ray Bradbury's 1953 dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, when Mildred and her friends talk about the success of one presidential candidate over the other in a recent election, they talk only about the attractiveness of the winning candidate over the loser. One of their points is "You just don't go running a little short man like that against a tall man."[48]
  • A 1988 article in the Los Angeles Times fashion section about a haberdasher devoted to clothing shorter men included a variation of the tale: "Stern says he just learned that Dukakis is 5 feet, 8 inches. 'Did you know,' he adds, noticeably disappointed, 'that since 1900 the taller of the two candidates always wins?'"[49]
  • A 1997 book called How to Make Anyone Fall in Love with You discusses the issue in a section about the importance of height: "What about height? One assumes the taller the better, because our culture venerates height. In fact, practically every president elected in the United States since 1900 was the taller of the two candidates."[50]
  • A chapter titled "Epistemology at the Core of Postmodernism" in the 2002 book Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmodernisms makes this observation: "I remember the subversive effect the observation had on me that in every U.S. presidential race, the taller of the two candidates had been elected. It opened up space for a counterdiscourse to the presumed rationality of the electoral process."[51]
  • A 1975 book called First Impressions: The Psychology of Encountering Others notes: "Elevator Shoes, Anyone? One factor which has a far-reaching influence on how people are perceived, at least in American society, is height. From 1900 to 1968 the man elected U.S. president was always the taller of the two candidates. (Richard Nixon was slightly shorter than George McGovern.)"[52]
  • A 1978 book titled The Psychology of Person Identification states: "They also say that every President of the USA elected since the turn of the [20th] century has been the taller of the two candidates (Jimmy Carter being an exception)."[53]
  • A 1999 book, Survival of the Prettiest by Nancy Etcoff, repeated a version of the legend in a section on the power of heights: "... Since 1776 only [two Presidents,] James Madison and Benjamin Harrison[,] have been below-average height. The easiest way to predict the winner in a United States election is to bet on the taller man: in this century you would have had an unbroken string of hits until 1972 when Richard Nixon beat George McGovern."[54]

A comparison of the heights of the winning presidential candidate with the losing candidate from each election since 1788 is provided below to evaluate such views.

Comparative table of heights of United States presidential candidates[edit]

Secretary Kerry compares his height to that of a statue of George Washington while touring National Constitution Center in Philadelphia
 Taller candidate was elected   Shorter candidate was elected 
 Winner and opponent were of the same height   Comparison data unavailable 


** Lost the House of Representatives vote, but received the most popular votes and a plurality of electoral votes; however, not the majority needed to win.

† Ran unopposed


President Lincoln at Antietam in October 1862 with eventual 1864 opponent Gen. George B. McClellan (second from left)

The tallest president elected to office was Abraham Lincoln (6 ft 3+34 in or 192.4 cm). Portrait artist Francis Bicknell Carpenter supplies the information for Lincoln:

Mr. Lincoln's height was six feet three and three-quarter inches "in his stocking-feet." He stood up one day, at the right of my large canvas, while I marked his exact height upon it.[3]

A disputed theory holds that Lincoln's height is the result of the genetic condition multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2b (MEN2B); see medical and mental health of Abraham Lincoln.[82]

Only slightly shorter than Lincoln was Lyndon B. Johnson (6 ft 3+12 in or 192 cm), the tallest president who originally entered office without being elected directly.

The shortest president elected to office was James Madison (5 ft 4 in or 163 cm); the shortest president to originally enter the office by means other than election is tied between Millard Fillmore and Harry S. Truman (both were 5 ft 9 in or 175 cm).

The tallest unsuccessful presidential candidate (who is also the tallest of all presidential candidates) is Winfield Scott, who stood at 6 ft 5 in (196 cm) and lost the 1852 election to Franklin Pierce, who stood at 5 ft 10 in (178 cm). The second-tallest unsuccessful candidate is John Kerry, at 6 ft 4 in (193 cm). The shortest unsuccessful presidential candidate is Stephen A. Douglas, at 5 ft 4 in (163 cm). The next shortest is Hillary Clinton, who lost the 2016 election and is 5 ft 5 in (165 cm).

The largest height difference between two presidential candidates (out of the candidates whose heights are known) was in the 1860 election, when Abraham Lincoln stood 12 inches (30 cm) taller than opponent Stephen A. Douglas. The second-largest difference was in the 1812 election, with DeWitt Clinton standing 11 inches (28 cm) taller than incumbent James Madison. The 2016 election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton has the third-largest difference at 10 inches (25 cm).


  1. ^ Johnson measured 6 ft 2+12 in (189 cm) according to a report of physical examination from October 1941.[7]
  2. ^ Other public records, including Trump's 2012 driver's license, give his height as 6 ft 2 in (188 cm).[11][12] The disputed height of Donald Trump has been the subject of an edit war on this and other Wikipedia pages since 2016.[13]
  3. ^ Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1918 passport gives his height as 6 ft 12 in (184 cm).[17]
  4. ^ Washington once mentioned his height as being 6 ft 0 in (183 cm).[20]
  5. ^ Kennedy measured 6 ft 0 in (183 cm) according to a report of physical examination from October 1941.[24]
  6. ^ In 1984, The New York Times referred to Biden as 6 ft 1 in (185 cm).[28]
  7. ^ Nixon measured 5 ft 10+12 in (179 cm) according to a report of physical examination from October 1943.[31]
  8. ^ One account describes Seymour as "above medium height".[70]



  1. ^ As some examples, USA TODAY listed height among six criteria for predicting who would win the 2004 election; a Washington Post blog Archived July 29, 2012, at the Wayback Machine noted the significance of height in physical appearance and its effect on voters. See the discussion of this phenomenon later in the article for further examples.
  2. ^ a b O'Connor, Kevin C. (February 28, 2024). "President Biden's current health summary" (PDF). whitehouse.gov. Retrieved February 29, 2024. height: 72 inches, weight: 178 lbs, BMI: 24.1
  3. ^ a b Carpenter, Francis B. (1866). Six Months in the White House: The Story of a Picture. Hurd and Houghton. p. 217.
  4. ^ Dallek, Robert (1998). Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961–1973. Oxford University Press. p. 12. ISBN 978-0195054651.
  5. ^ Caro, Robert (1982). The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power. New York: Knopf. p. 146. ISBN 978-0394499734.
  6. ^ Dallek, Robert (2003). An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy. Little, Brown, and Co. p. 354. ISBN 9780316172387.
  7. ^ Paul, Rob (2018). "How tall was President Lyndon B. Johnson?". celebheights.com. CelebHeights. Retrieved 2021-09-15.
  8. ^ Bornstein, Harold N. (September 13, 2016). "Donald J. Trump's Medical Records" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on September 16, 2016. Retrieved January 7, 2021. height: 6'3", weight: 236 pounds
  9. ^ Jackson, Ronny L. (January 12, 2018). "The President's Periodic Physical Exam" (PDF). whitehouse.gov. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 20, 2021. Retrieved January 7, 2021 – via National Archives. height: 75 inches, weight: 239 pounds
  10. ^ Conley, Sean P. (February 8, 2019). "The President's Periodic Physical Exam". whitehouse.gov. Archived from the original on January 20, 2021. Retrieved January 7, 2021 – via National Archives. height: 6'3", weight: 243 pounds
  11. ^ Samuelsohn, Darren (December 12, 2016). "Trump's driver's license casts doubt on height claims". Politico. Retrieved 2021-01-27.
  12. ^ "Donald John Trump Selective Service Card" (PDF). archives.gov. National Archives. Retrieved 2021-10-20.
  13. ^ Kimball, Whitney (December 26, 2019). "The Dumbest Wikipedia Edit War of the Dumbest Decade". Gizmodo.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad Kane, Joseph (1994). Facts about the Presidents: A Compilation of Biographical and Historical Information. New York: H. W. Wilson. pp. 344–45. ISBN 0-8242-0845-5.
  15. ^ Macdonald, Zanne (July 1992). "Physical Descriptions of Thomas Jefferson". Monticello Report. Monticello Research Department. Archived from the original on 2009-07-13. Retrieved 2009-05-17.
  16. ^ a b c d Mathews, Jay (August 3, 1999). "The Shrinking Field". The Washington Post.
  17. ^ Paul, Rob (2021). "Franklin D. Roosevelt Height". celebheights.com. CelebHeights. Retrieved 2021-09-15.
  18. ^ a b c d Page, Susan (June 23, 2004). "Time-tested formulas suggest both Bush and Kerry will win on Nov. 2". USA TODAY. Archived from the original on 2023-04-06. Retrieved 2009-05-13.
  19. ^ Various sources have put Washington's height between 6 ft and 6 ft 3.5 in. See: Chernow, Ron, Washington: A Life, 2010, The Penguin Press HC ISBN 1-59420-266-4; Wilson, Woodrow, George Washington, 2004, Cosimo, Inc., p. 111; Alden, John Richard, George Washington: A Biography, 1984, Louisiana State University Press, p. 11; Lodge, Henry Cabot, George Washington, Vol. I, 2007, The Echo Library, p. 30; Haworth, Paul Leland, George Washington, Kessinger Publishing, 2004, p. 119; Thayer, William Roscoe, George Washington, 1931, Plain Label Books, p. 65; Ford, Paul Leicester, The True George Washington, Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott Company, 1896, p. 18−19
  20. ^ "From George Washington to Charles Lawrence, 20 June 1768". founders.archives.gov.
  21. ^ Jackson, Ronny L. (March 8, 2016). "The President's Periodic Physical Exam" (PDF). whitehouse.gov. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 9, 2020. Retrieved November 26, 2020 – via National Archives. height: 73.5 inches, weight: 175 pounds, BMI: 22.8
  22. ^ Remini, Robert V., Andrew Jackson, HarperCollins, 1969, p. 15. ISBN 0-06-080132-8
  23. ^ Hendriks, Steven (2017). "JFK Presidential Library". The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Retrieved 2009-04-19.
  24. ^ "Report of Physical Examination". jfklibrary.org. JFK Presidential Library. Retrieved 2021-10-17.
  25. ^ a b c Whitcomb, John and Claire Whitcomb, Real Life at the White House, Routledge (UK), 2002. ISBN 0-415-93951-8
  26. ^ a b c d Tossey, Lisa D. (2004). "Is presidential race a simple matter of standing tall?". The Pendulum Online. Retrieved 2009-04-19.
  27. ^ O'Connor, Kevin C. (February 16, 2023). "President Biden's current health summary" (PDF). whitehouse.gov. Retrieved February 21, 2023. height: 72 inches, weight: 178 lbs, BMI: 24.1
  28. ^ Rubin, Zick (June 22, 1984). "The Short List For Vice President". The New York Times. Retrieved 2022-10-29.
  29. ^ Sotos, John G. (2003). Taft and Pickwick: Sleep Apnea in the White House. Chest. 2003;124:1133-1142. Online copy
  30. ^ Nash, George H. (1988). The Life of Herbert Hoover. W.W. Norton & Company. p. 365.
  31. ^ Paul, Rob (2020). "Richard Nixon Height". celebheights.com. CelebHeights. Retrieved 2021-09-14.
  32. ^ "Presidential Height Index". The Height Site. Archived from the original on August 23, 2012. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  33. ^ "Report on President Bush's Physical Examination". The New York Times. August 2, 2006.
  34. ^ "Medical History Summary: President George W. Bush". FindLaw. August 7, 2007. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
  35. ^ Scott, David (October 18, 2011). "GOP Debate: Does height matter in presidential politics?". The Christian Science Monitor.
  36. ^ Levin, Phyllis Lee, Edith & Woodrow: the Wilson White House, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. ISBN 0-7432-1158-8 Google Print
  37. ^ Davison, Kenneth E (1972). The Presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, Inc. p. 69. ISBN 0-8371-6275-0.
  38. ^ Behrman, Carol H., James K. Polk, Twenty-First Century Books, 2004. ISBN 0-8225-1396-X
  39. ^ King, Charles, The True Ulysses Grant, Philadelphia & London, J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1914. Google Print
  40. ^ Levy, Debbie, John Quincy Adams, Twenty-First Century Books, 2004, p. 28. ISBN 0-8225-0825-7
  41. ^ Ferling, John E., John Adams: A Life, Owl Books, 1996, ISBN 0-8050-4576-7, p. 169. Google Print
  42. ^ Widmer, Ted and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Edward L. Widmer, Martin Van Buren, Times Books, 2005, p. 2. ISBN 0-8050-6922-4
  43. ^ Loderhouse, Gary and Nelson Price, William Addison Hunter, Legendary Hoosiers: Famous Folks from the State of Indiana, Emmis Books, 1999. ISBN 1-57860-097-9 Google Print
  44. ^ Phillips, Louis, Ask Me Anything About the Presidents, HarperCollins, 1992. ISBN 0-380-76426-1
  45. ^ Using the values in the table Comparative table of heights of United States presidential candidates (February 26, 2023 version), by pairing every winner with every losing candidate in the same election year from 1900 until 2020, the average (mean) amount by which the winner was taller than the loser was 1.20 inches.
  46. ^ "Stereographs". American Antiquarian Society. Archived from the original on 2019-10-16.
  47. ^ a b Using the values in the table Comparative table of heights of United States presidential candidates (February 26, 2023 version), by pairing every winner with every losing candidate in the same election year where the height was known for all main opponents listed, the average (mean) amount by which the winner was taller than the loser was 0.39 inches. When excluding the 2016 election in order to eliminate gender as a variable (since men are naturally taller than woman), the winner was only 0.21 inches taller on average, which, upon noting how all candidates are rounded to the nearest half-inch, rounds to a 0 inch difference.
  48. ^ Bradbury, Ray (2012). Fahrenheit 451: A Novel. Simon & Schuster. p. 93. ISBN 978-1-4516-7331-9.
  49. ^ Los Angeles Times, March 25, 1988, p. 7
  50. ^ Lowndes, Leil, How to Make Anyone Fall in Love with You, McGraw-Hill Professional, 1997, pp.174-175. ISBN 0-8092-2989-7 Google Print
  51. ^ Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns, edited by D.A. Carson, Zondervan, 2002, p. 83. ISBN 0-310-24334-3 Google Print
  52. ^ Kleinke, Chris L., First Impressions: The Psychology of Encountering Others, Prentice-Hall, 1975, p. 13. ISBN 0-13-318428-5 Google Print
  53. ^ Clifford, Brian R. and Ray Bull, The Psychology of Person Identification, Routledge & K. Paul, 1978, p. 115. ISBN 0-7100-8867-1. Print
  54. ^ Etcoff, Nancy, Survival of the Prettiest, New York, Anchor Books, 1999. ISBN 0-385-47942-5
  55. ^ Mathews, Jay (September 24, 2015). "Is Hillary Clinton getting taller? Or is the Internet getting dumber?". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-08-19.
  56. ^ Gaz, Randall D. (August 25, 2012). "Healthcare Statement on Mitt Romney" (PDF). Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2021-01-08. height: 6'1.5", weight: 184 lbs
  57. ^ "John McCain Medical Records" (PDF). The Washington Post. May 23, 2008. p. 7. Retrieved 2009-02-23. height: 175.3 CM, weight: 78.93 KG, BMI: 25.68
  58. ^ Altman, Lawrence K. (October 3, 2004). "On Kerrys Journey to Health,Stops for Shrapnel and Cancer". The New York Times. Retrieved 2022-10-29.
  59. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Gillis, John S. (1982). Too Tall, Too Small. Champaign, Illinois: Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, Inc. p. 20. ISBN 0-918296-15-3.
  60. ^ Dowd, Maureen (June 21, 1992). "Where They Stand". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-13.
  61. ^ Morris, Charles E. (1920). Progressive Democracy of James M. Cox. The Bobbs-Merrill Company. p. 9. ISBN 9781444637489.
  62. ^ Gillis, Too Tall, Too Small, p. 20. Lists his height as 5 ft 10 in (178 cm).
  63. ^ Edwards, Rebecca; DeFeo, Sarah (2000). "William Jennings Bryan". 1896: The Presidential Campaign. Vassar College. Retrieved 2009-04-20. Lists his height as 5 ft 10 in (178 cm).
  64. ^ Wilson, Charles Morrow (1970). The Commoner: William Jennings Bryan. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday. p. 40. Lists his height as 5 ft 11 in (180 cm) during his second year in college.
  65. ^ Springen, Donald K. (1991). William Jennings Bryan: Orator of Small-Town America. Greenwood Press. p. 15. ISBN 0-313-25977-1. Lists his height as 6 ft 0 in (183 cm).
  66. ^ Records of his height have been difficult to obtain. In one biography, he was described as "just under six feet in height". While not a definitive record of his height, this description does allow us to presume he was at least comparable in height to Cleveland. See Crawford, Thomas Clark (1893). James G. Blaine: A Study of his Life and Career, from the Standpoint of a Personal Witness of the Principal Events in his History. Edgewood Publishing Co. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-7222-8992-1. Retrieved 2009-06-26.
  67. ^ Jordan, David M. (1988). Winfield Scott Hancock: A Soldier's Life. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. p. 23. ISBN 0-253-36580-5.
  68. ^ Bigelow, John (1895). The Life of Samuel Tilden (vol. 1). New York: Harper and Brothers. p. 283.
  69. ^ Stoddart, Henry Luther (1946). Horace Greeley: Printer, Editor, Crusader. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons. p. 38.
  70. ^ Gillet, Ransom Hooker (August 8, 1868). "Democracy in the United States: What it Has Done, what it is Doing, and what it Will Do". Appleton – via Google Books.
  71. ^ Eckenrode, Hamilton James; Bryan Conrad (1941). George B. McClellan, the man who saved the Union. University of North Carolina Press. p. 2. ISBN 9780807803752. Retrieved 2009-06-26.
  72. ^ Johanssen, Robert W. (1973). Stephen A. Douglas. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 4.
  73. ^ Davis, William C. (1974). Breckinridge: Statesman, Soldier, Symbol. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. p. 18. ISBN 0-8071-0068-4.
  74. ^ Life of John Charles Fremont. New York: Greeley & McElrath. 1856. p. 31. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  75. ^ Heidler, David Stephen (2004). Encyclopedia of the War of 1812. Naval Institute Press. p. 464. ISBN 1-59114-362-4. Retrieved 2009-05-17.
  76. ^ According to Cass's biography, he was "about five foot eight or nine inches". See Woodford, Frank B. (1950). Lewis Cass: The Last Jeffersonian. New Brunswick and New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. p. 32.
  77. ^ Seymour, Chas C. B. (1858). Self-made men. New York: Harper & Brothers. p. 137. Retrieved 2009-07-06.
  78. ^ Scott, Nancy N. (1856). A Memoir of Hugh Lawson White, Judge of the Supreme Court of Tennessee, Member of the Senate of the United States, etc., etc. Michigan: J. B. Lippincott & Co. p. 243. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  79. ^ Mooney, Chase Curran (1974). William H. Crawford, 1772-1834. Michigan: University of Kentucky Press. p. 7. ISBN 0-8131-1270-2. Retrieved 2009-06-25.
  80. ^ One biography of Crawford describes his stature as being "considerably over six feet". See Butler, Benjamin F. (1824). Sketches of the Life and Character of William H. Crawford. Albany: Packard and Benthuysen. p. 35.
  81. ^ Cornog, Evan, The Birth of Empire: DeWitt Clinton and the American Experience, 1769-1828, ISBN 0-19-514051-6
  82. ^ Sotos, John G. (2008). The Physical Lincoln. Mt. Vernon Book Systems. ISBN 978-0-9818193-2-7.


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