The Effects of Candidate Age in the 2008 Presidential Election

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Abstract:

Using data from the 2008 National Annenberg Election Survey (NAES), this study finds that during the general election, adults in the United States were more likely to report that John McCain, who was 71 during the 2008 primaries and 72 in the general election, was “too old to be president” than to report that Barack Obama was “too young to be president.” The percentage of the population subscribing to these views was not a constant in the general election. Instead, the belief that McCain was “too old to be president” increased across the campaign period, while the belief that Obama was “too young to be president” declined. Throughout the general election, major party identifiers were more likely to believe that the other major party candidate’s age was a liability. Newspaper consumption and Internet use were positively associated with perceptions of McCain being “too old to be president,” even when controlling for demographic and political ideological factors. Perceptions about candidate age were significantly associated with candidate evaluations and vote preference even after controls were factored in.

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