Age is nothing but a number in the 2016 presidential race. According to a new poll by McClatchy-Marist, 71% of voters prefer older candidates to serve as commander-in-chief.
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“People see the age of a candidate that is 65 and older as a benefit to them based on their experience and wisdom,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute of Public Opinion.
Only 24% of voters surveyed believe electing an older president is a risk because the candidate may not be up to the demands of the job after serving several years in office.
“Trump, Carson, Clinton and Sanders are four of the oldest candidates who are getting the most support at this point so I think that is interesting at a time when we are hearing that the era of the Baby Boomers is coming to an end and the Millennials are taking over,” said Miringoff. “As far as popularity and support right now for these candidates, age doesn’t seem to be a hindrance if anything it seems to be a boost.”
The top four candidates currently ranking the highest in the polls are also the most seasoned when it comes to their age. If elected president, Hillary Clinton will be 69-year-old, Sanders 75, Trump 70 and Carson 65 on inauguration day in 2017.
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Miringoff says age has always been an issue in past campaigns including John McCain in 2008, Bob Dole in 1996 and Ronald Reagan in 1980 who ranks as the nation’s oldest president at 69-years-old. Reagan led two aggressive campaigns and in 1984 he jokingly pointed out the age of his opponent, Walter Mondale: “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."
“This is a change election voters are looking for something different, if Hillary is elected you will have the first woman president, Bernie Sanders is very different; both Donald Trump and Ben Carson are outside the norm of politics, the only thing they all have in common is that they are up there in age,” said Miringoff who also noted that part of the overwhelming support for an older candidate could be a reaction to the “Obama years.”
"Obama was considered to be a fairly inexperienced young Senator when he was elected, so maybe now people want to have someone who has seen more of it, an older age is not a disadvantage anymore."
Freshman Senators, Marco Rubio, 45 and Ted Cruz, 46 are beginning to surge in recent primary polls. If elected they would be among the youngest presidents in history next to Bill Clinton, Ulysses S. Grant and Barack Obama. Miringoff says the stress and fatigue that comes with the presidency will also come into play when voters choose which candidate could withstand that pressure.
"These candidates are not showing their age when they are flying all over the country campaigning, there is a lot of energy but you don't see the age."
The McClatchy-Marist Poll surveyed 1,465 adults from October 29-November 4. Adults residing in the United States were interviewed in English or Spanish by telephone. The results have a margin of error plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.