Senator Dianne Feinstein, the 89-year-old politician from California, has faced increasing pressure to resign from the U.S. Senate. Feinstein has been absent from the Capitol building for months as she recovers from shingles, and Democrats have been unable to get needed Republican agreement to temporarily replace her on the Judiciary panel.
About two-thirds of Americans (65%) in the latest Economist/YouGov poll — including 64% of Democrats — say that Feinstein should resign, when they are told that she has been absent from Congress for over a month for medical reasons.
The calls for her to retire are not entirely linked to dislike for her, or by a partisan desire to drive the powerful Democrat out of Congress. While people who have a very or somewhat unfavorable view of Feinstein overwhelmingly think she should resign (78%), most people (64%) who have a strongly or somewhat favorable opinion of her agree that she should resign.
Many Americans doubt that age brings wisdom and experience — at least when it comes to politics. Twice as many (41%) believe old age hurts members of Congress by making their work more difficult than think that age helps by bringing wisdom and experience (19%). One-quarter of Americans (24%) do not think age makes a difference when it comes to the job performance of a member of Congress.
Younger adults are much more likely than older ones to say old age helps members of Congress to have the experience and wisdom to do a good job. While 34% of adults under 30 say this, just 9% of Americans who are 65 and older do.
Most Democrats like Feinstein — 54% have a favorable opinion of her while 23% view her unfavorably — but even among the Democrats who believe old age brings wisdom and experience to members of Congress, the vast majority think she should resign, by a margin of 74% to 15%.
Two other senators — Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democrat John Fetterman — recently have been absent from Congress for medical reasons. The poll asked questions about support for the resignations of McConnell and Fetterman equivalent to the question about Feinstein. More Americans support McConnell resigning (63% say he should) than say Fetterman should resign (46% say he should).
Majorities of Democrats (64%) and Republicans (64%) agree that the 81-year-old McConnell should resign, but there is less agreement when it comes to 53-year-old Fetterman: 32% of Democrats say he should resign, compared to 65% of Republicans.
That partisan split reflects the two men's different levels of popularity within their own parties: More Republicans have an unfavorable view of McConnell than have a favorable one, while Fetterman is viewed favorably by many more Democrats than view him unfavorably.
McConnell's resignation is desired by most people who like him (60% with a favorable opinion of him say he should resign), as well as by an even greater share or people who have an unfavorable opinion of him (73%). As for Fetterman, most people who like him do not want him to resign (32% say he should vs. 51% say he should not). A large majority of people with an unfavorable opinion of Fetterman do want him to step down (73% vs. 17%).
Only 37% of Americans oppose maximum age limits for members of Congress. Most (58%) support an age limit of 80 or less — which would disqualify Feinstein and McConnell. Support for specific senators resigning isn't only about their age, though: Even among Americans who oppose a congressional age limit, 47% say Feinstein should resign; that's also true for 52% of Democrats who oppose age limits. For McConnell, 44% who don't want to impose a maximum age limit on Congress say he should resign, as do 47% of Republicans who oppose age limits. Support for Fetterman's resignation is lower among the anti-age limit group.
Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to June 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (34% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.
Image: Getty Images (Erin Schaff-Pool)