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Description: The overrepresentation of advanced age among elites is a rising concern in democracies such as the United States. In 2016, American voters elected Donald Trump—at the time the oldest president to enter office—and in 2020 Joe Biden beat that record. Theories of descriptive representation suggest that voters should be less likely to support older candidates when age becomes a salient campaign issue. Indeed, age raises questions about a candidate’s physical and mental health, and thus their fitness to serve in office. The present study reports on a survey experiment conducted during the 2020 Democratic Presidential primaries, which featured several candidates in their seventies, all running to replace an incumbent president of the same age group. Priming age did not affect voters’ assessments of any particular candidate’s ability to win the general election. These results are inconsistent with existing studies of age effects using hypothetical candidates. Possible causes of this discrepancy are addressed in the discussion.

License: CC-By Attribution 4.0 International


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