Amidst a time of heightened discord, a surprising point of agreement has emerged among Americans: the belief that President Joe Biden is too old to effectively serve a second term, according to a recent poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. This consensus sheds light on a trait that the president cannot alter.
Biden himself has humorously acknowledged the age issue, making light of his 80 trips around the sun in an attempt to put audiences at ease.
While age discrimination is prohibited in workplaces, the public, in its role as the president’s employers, has not shied away from expressing their sentiments.
The poll’s findings indicate that 77% of respondents believe that Biden’s age would hinder his effectiveness for an additional four years in office. Strikingly, this sentiment is shared not only by 89% of Republicans but also by 69% of Democrats. Moreover, this viewpoint transcends generational boundaries, receiving support from a wide range of age groups, not just young individuals. However, older Democrats express more support for Biden’s 2024 re-election bid.
In contrast, about half of U.S. adults surveyed indicated that former President Donald Trump, aged 77, is too old for the presidential role. Here, the familiar partisan divide comes into play, with Democrats more likely than Republicans to view age as disqualifying Trump.
The poll’s takeaway is clear: Americans are advocating for a transition from the old to the young, or at least for younger leadership.
Across party lines, Democrats, Republicans, and independents all share a common desire to introduce age limits for the presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court. About two-thirds of U.S. adults support implementing age restrictions on presidential and congressional candidates, as well as establishing mandatory retirement ages for Supreme Court justices.
Specifically, 67% of respondents favor a mandatory retirement age for Supreme Court justices, 68% support age restrictions for candidates running for the House and Senate, and 66% endorse age restrictions for presidential candidates.
However, the likelihood of such changes occurring remains slim due to the current dominance of older leaders and the constitutional framework that would need to be addressed.
Nevertheless, the survey reflects a widespread willingness among individuals from diverse political backgrounds to embrace a younger, more vibrant leadership that captures the public’s imagination.
One such individual is Noah Burden, a 28-year-old communications consultant residing in Alexandria, Virginia. Despite his preference for Biden over Trump, Burden believes that the presidential contenders should be closer in age to his own generation. He contends that the older generation’s perspective may no longer accurately reflect current values and global realities, which can prove to be problematic.
Greg Pack, 62, a registered nurse in Ardmore, Oklahoma, shares similar sentiments. Although he leans towards supporting Trump, he acknowledges Biden’s declining capabilities and expresses the desire for both Biden and Trump to step aside for younger leaders.
The AP-NORC survey extended beyond straightforward questions and presented participants with word association exercises. Respondents were asked to provide the first word or phrase that came to mind when each candidate’s name was mentioned.
The results underscored the perception that Biden’s age is a significant factor across party lines, even when respondents were not specifically prompted to consider age.
In response to Biden, 26% of participants mentioned his age, while another 15% used terms such as “slow” or “confused.” Among Democrats, 28% immediately mentioned Biden’s age, opting for such descriptions over terms like “president,” “leader,” “strong,” or “capable.” One individual who approved of Biden’s performance still referred to him as “senile.”
Conversely, only 3% of survey participants described Trump as “confused” as their first impression, and merely 1% used terms such as “old.” In contrast, negative terms like “corrupt” or “crooked” were used by 15% of respondents, and other unfavorable descriptions like “bad” were used by 11%. Positive terms like “good” were employed by 8% of participants.
This discrepancy in public perceptions of their age raises questions. According to Eric Dezenhall, a corporate scandal-management consultant with experience in Ronald Reagan’s White House, Biden appears to be significantly affected by age-related conditions, which may not be the case for Trump. Dezenhall believes that even those who favor Biden perceive him as frail and not entirely present.
Diego Saldana, 31, of Raleigh, North Carolina, feels that Biden’s behavior reminds him of his elderly grandfather, prompting concerns about his fitness for leading the country. Eric Colwell, 34, an audit manager in Sacramento, California, regards the visual representation of leaders as crucial, highlighting the preference for youthful and energetic figures.
Despite these opinions, the poll indicates that while many desire a change towards younger leadership, achieving such a transformation in the political landscape remains a significant challenge.