Forget about presidential age—Americans say they want new ideas, not experience

April 10, 2019, 6:45 PM GMT+0

Joe Biden’s favorable ratings dropped from 82% to 74%, after news stories about inappropriate behavior toward women, but he remains a popular pick

Americans in a recent Economist/YouGov Poll worry more about whether an older President might find the job too difficult than they do about a younger President’s lack of experience. This year, the Democrats are considering both types of candidates: those who would be 80 years old while in office and those who would become President before their 40th birthday. Youth seems easier to deal with for many.

There is only one candidate Republicans are thinking about (77% of GOP primary voters say they are satisfied with having President Donald Trump as the only Republican running in 2020). They see problems both with someone 80 or older and someone under 40, though the Constitution just mandates a minimum age of 35 to run for the executive office. If President Trump is re-elected, he would be neither at the end of a second term: in January 2025, he would be 78 years old.

Democrats and Republicans feel the same way when the question is asked about an older President, with more thinking it would be too difficult for a person that old than thinking age brings experience and wisdom. Democrats under the age of 30 and those 65 and older agree on this question. Unlike Republicans, however, Democrats overwhelmingly think a young President is a good idea. And Democrats 65 and older are just as interested in the possibility of new ideas expressed by young candidates as Democrats under 30 are.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders are, of course, the oldest in the Democratic field. They are also the best-known and best-liked by Democrats (although favorable ratings for two female contenders, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and California Senator Kamala Harris are nearly as high).

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren lead declared Democratic candidatesBiden’s favorable ratings dropped eight points in the last week, from 82% to 74%, after news stories about instances of inappropriate behavior toward women appeared, but there is no difference in how male and female Democrats look at the former Vice President.

But age could still be a problem for both Biden and Sanders. Half of those who are planning to vote in a 2020 Democratic primary or caucus say they are considering voting for Biden in a question that allowed them to check as many names as they wanted.

Biden has the highest percentage saying this among all of the possible candidates (41% say they are considering voting for Sanders, 40% for Kamala Harris). Older Democrats, women and African-American Democrats are more likely than younger Democrats, men, and white Americans to say they are considering Biden. But even some of those considering the two septuagenarian candidates worry about age. While pluralities of those considering Biden and Sanders say age gives a president experience and wisdom, more than a quarter say it will just make the job more difficult for them.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is one of the youngest possible candidates (he is a few months older than Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard). Both of them could use their youth as an advantage, though at the moment, Buttigieg is better-known and better-liked among Democrats than Gabbard. Half of Democrats have formed an opinion of Buttigieg, and it is a positive one: 38% favorable to 11% unfavorable. Like most Democrats, those who know Buttigieg aren’t troubled by his age. As for possibly voting for him, 22% of Democratic voters (and even more of those with an opinion of him) would consider voting for him. That’s about the same percentage who say they are now considering voting for New Jersey Senator Cory Booker.

For liberal Democratic voters (a majority) the top picks are Harris, Biden, Sanders, and Warren. For moderates and conservatives, most are considering Biden, fewer are considering Sanders and the rest of the field.

Biden, Sanders, and Harris lead Democrats' presidential considerations for primaries and caucuses in 2020Democrats, like Republicans, are generally content with their (multiple) choices. But there are some who still aren’t satisfied. 30% of those who say they will likely vote in a Democratic primary or caucus wish there were other choices. That figure is even higher among Democratic primary voters who identify as independents (42%), those who don’t identify as liberals (36%) and those under the age of 45 (35%).

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