Data Journalist

This article is part of an ongoing series uncovering what the ideal commander-in-chief looks like to different sections of American society. Check out Part I: What the Ideal President Looks Like to Millennials and Part II: What the Ideal President Looks Like to Republicans.

Americans who consider themselves political independents—a group that's largely viewed as potential swing voters during elections—tend to fall somewhere between Democrats and Republicans when asked to identify traits that would make a presidential candidate more or less appealing to them, according to a YouGov RealTime poll of registered and unregistered US adults.

For instance, Independents are split on whether their ideal president would be well-established in American politics (35%) or an outsider (35%) to the system. By contrast, a majority of Democrats (77%) want a well-established insider and Republicans (56%) want an outsider. Independents were also twice as likely (30%) to respond “don’t know” compared to their Republican and Democrat peers. 

But, Independents can align more heavily with Republicans or Democrats depending on the question. When it comes to a president’s age, Independents (11%) and Democrats (12%) are more likely than Republicans (5%) to say youth (35-40 years old) is ideal. 

Two-thirds (67%) of Independents say their ideal president would be under 60 when beginning his or her first term

If America elected a president under 40, he or she would make history as the youngest commander-in-chief in history. The only two presidential candidates who currently meet this youth threshold are South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard.

A more bipartisan perspective on presidential age: a majority (67%) of Independents say their dream president is under 60 years old. That’s compared with 77 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Republicans who agree.

President Donald Trump, 73, is the oldest serving president in US history, though he’s in similar company for the 2020 race. GOP challenger William Weld is also 73, while former Vice President Joe Biden is 76. Senator Bernie Sanders is 77 and Senator Elizabeth Warren is 70. Just 2% of Independents described a president in his or her 70s as “ideal.”

More than half of Independents say a candidate with military experience (58%), business experience (56%), government experience (56%), and legal experience (54%) is more appealing to them. 

While Independents tend to fall somewhere between Democrats and Republicans on whether each background is more or less appealing, they outrank both parties in one area: finding farming or agriculture experience appealing. More than four in 10 (42%) Independents say farming or agriculture experience makes a candidate more appealing, compared to 33% of Democrats and 39% of Republicans.

A majority of Independents say the most appealing president would have military, business, or government experience

Nearly one-third of Independents (32%) say they would vote for a presidential candidate who was gender non-binary. Three in 10 Independents (30%) would vote for a transgender presidential candidate, a rate that is six times higher than Republicans (5%) but 15 percentage points less than Democrats (45%).

Nearly three in four Independents (73%) say they would vote for a female presidential candidate

Who’s your ideal president? Sign up to be a member of the YouGov panel and see full survey results here.

Methodology: Total unweighted sample size was 1,216 US adults ages 18+. The responding sample is weighted to provide a representative reporting sample. The survey was conducted online April 29 - 30, 2019. There were 355 self-identified Independents surveyed. 

Related: Should 2020 presidential candidates try to speak Spanish or is it pandering?

Image: Getty

RealTime Research

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