Americans’ concern about Biden’s age is high, but unchanged after special counsel report

David MontgomerySenior data journalist
February 16, 2024, 3:18 PM GMT+0

The Economist/YouGov Poll has shown for months that many Americans consider President Biden's age — 81 — to be a concern. The latest poll shows these concerns remain widespread, but haven't increased in the wake of a report last week from special counsel Robert K. Hur that raised questions about the president’s mental capabilities.

Though concerns about Biden's age are strongly correlated with political views, they also are connected to Americans' own ages — in complex ways.

Among Democrats and Independents who lean to the Democratic Party — or, for the purposes of this article, Democrats — young people are the most likely to say Biden's age is a major concern, with 29% saying it will "severely limit his ability to do the job" of president. In contrast, among those 65 or older, only 12% say Biden's age will have such a severe impact.

On the other side of the aisle, however, it's younger adults who are least critical of Biden's age. Among adults who are Republicans or Independents who lean to the Republican Party, 62% who are younger than 45 say Biden's age will be a severe issue, compared to 95% of those who are 65 or older.

Biden is four years older than former President Donald Trump, Biden's likely Republican opponent in the presidential election, who is 77. Americans are much less likely to think health and age will be a significant issue for Trump.

Overall, 24% of U.S. adult citizens say Trump's health and age will be a severe issue, compared to 54% who say the same about Biden. Even among Democrats, only 42% say Trump's health and age is a severe issue, similar to the share who say this will have little or no effect. Meanwhile Republicans are more likely to say Biden's age is a severe issue than to say Trump's is by an overwhelming margin (83% to 5%).

Another recent YouGov poll also indicates that there is greater concern about the effect of Biden's age than of Trump's. The poll asked whether each of 20 characteristics better describe Biden or Trump, and found that more Americans think that "competent," "mentally fit," and "intelligent" better describe Trump than think they're better fits for Biden. By wide margins, Americans are more likely to see Biden than Trump as the better match for "elderly" and "forgetful."

Hur's report, with its critique of Biden's mental capabilities, represented the conclusion of an investigation into Biden's handling of classified documents. Hur declined to charge Biden over the issue.

About three-quarter of Americans — including similar proportions of Democrats and Republicans — have heard a little or a lot about the special counsel’s report about Biden and classified documents from his time as vice president.

Americans are divided on the decision not to charge Biden for his keeping and sharing classified documents: 41% agree with the decision while 44% do not.

Most Democrats agree with the decision not to charge Biden, while few Republicans do.

Carl Bialik contributed to this article

See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on February 11 - 13, 2024 among 1,671 U.S. adult citizens.

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 November 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Getty

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