If Senate leader Phil Berger actually does make it to the U.S. Senate, he’ll be defying history. Since the 1910s, politicians sporting facial hair have become exceptionally rare. Research has long shown that political candidates with mustaches and beards tend to fare worse than their clean-shaven counterparts. For some reason, voters don’t trust politicians with beards. Instead of being seen as Lincolnesque, politicians with beards are viewed as sinister and corrupt. The fact that Hitler and Joseph Stalin sported facial hair doesn’t help. Today, only three members of the United States Senate have facial hair – John Hoeven (R-ND), Angus King (I-ME), and Tom Coburn (R-OK). The only one of those with a full beard is Coburn, and this is a recent development. Coburn has also announced that he isn’t running for a third term, so he’s free to violate these unspoken rules of candidate etiquette.
Why do voters dislike facial hair on their politicians so much? My guess: women. Women hate facial hair. The last President with facial hair was William Howard Taft, who left office in 1913. The Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in 1920. Coincidence? I think not. One of the few U.S. senators who has facial hair is the aforementioned John Hoeven of North Dakota, which has one of the highest male-to-female ratios in the United States. Obviously, it’s easier for mustached candidates to get elected in states with a lot of men.
North Carolina, unfortunately for Senator Berger, is not one of those states. Females constitute nearly 54% of North Carolina’s registered voters, and probably an even higher percentage of overall turnout. Berger would be advised to lose the beard. It’ll just be one more hurdle he’ll have to overcome.
It’s possible that Berger will be joined by another bearded candidate. Thom Tillis has threatened to quit shaving if the legislative session runs too long – past June 7th, to be exact. It will be his way of making a statement that the legislature has worn out its welcome. Don’t do it Thom. Women hate beards, and they’ll hate you too if you grow one.
John Wynne is the “conservative voice” at PoliticsNC, where he also provides polling analysis and commentary on legislative campaigns. When not writing about politics, he enjoys gardening and listening to opera. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.