More than half of Americans support a maximum age limit for elected officials

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
January 19, 2022, 9:18 PM GMT+0

Americans over 60 hold many of the highest offices in the U.S. government. An analysis of the current 117th Congress revealed that it’s the oldest, on average, of any Congress in at least the past 20 years. The average age of U.S. Senators is currently 64 and the average age of U.S. House members is 58. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is 81 and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is 71. Presidents are also being elected at older ages than in the past; at 70, President Donald Trump was the oldest to take office, though his record was quickly surpassed by his successor, President Joe Biden, who took office at age 78.

As the average age of elected officials has risen, some have questioned whether we should restrict individuals over a certain age from holding office. In 2019, former President Jimmy Carter expressed concern over the age of the presidential candidates in the 2020 election, stating: "I hope there's an age limit…If I were just 80 years old, if I was 15 years younger, I don't believe I could undertake the duties I experienced when I was president." Last month, SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk tweeted, “Let's set an age limit after which you can't run for political office, perhaps a number just below 70.”

The U.S. constitution specifies a minimum age requirement of 25 for the House of Representatives, 30 for the Senate, and 35 for presidents, but does not address a maximum. There are mandatory retirement ages for some other jobs, such as airline pilots (age 65) and in most U.S. states, judges. In Canada, Senators may only hold office until age 75. A recent YouGov poll asks Americans whether they think there should be a maximum age limit for elected officials, and if so, what it should be.

More than half (58%) of Americans say that there should be a maximum age limit, while 21% say there should not be. Republicans (64%) are slightly more likely than Democrats (57%) and Independents (60%) to say there should be a maximum age requirement.

Those who say there should be an age limit are split in regard to what it should be. One quarter (24%) say it should be 60 years old, 39% say it should be 70, 23% say it should be 80, and 5% say it should be 90. About one in 10 say it should be some other limit.

How would these limits impact the makeup of our current Congress? Our analysis found that if senators over 60 were barred from holding office, 71% of current senators would be ineligible to serve. If the limit were 70, 30% would be ineligible. If it were 80, 6% would be ineligible.

See the crosstabs from this YouGov Poll

Methodology: YouGov surveyed 27,797 U.S. adults for a poll on January 14-18, 2022. The samples were weighted to be representative of the U.S. population, based on gender, age, race, education, U.S. census region, and political party.

Image: Getty