Fun With Excel: How Has Age Played In Presidential Elections Since 1789?

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


There’s already been some good examination of how much the age gap between John McCain and Barack Obama will matter in November. ThingsYoungerThanMcCain.com, for example, is doing the yeoman’s work of listing the many, many items—like lubricated condoms and the LP record—that are younger than McCain.

And the folks at the Pew Research Center conducted a poll in February that found 26 percent of registered voters think John McCain is too old to be president (the number jumps to 32 percent when voters are told that McCain is 71).

We know that Barack Obama will be 47 on election day and McCain will be 72, meaning that 2008 will see a larger age gap between the top two presidential candidates than any of the previous 55 presidential elections. So here’s my question: how has age played in presidential elections in the past? Let’s look at a chart (takeaways at the bottom):

chart-gif.gif

Takeaways: Bob Dole was really old when he ran in ’96. In 1896 William Jennings Bryan was really young—just 36—and he lost. (Does this explain why McCain compared Obama to Bryan last week?) Sixty-five-year-old James Buchanan administered a spanking of young 43-year-old whippersnapper John Fremont in 1856.

Biggest takeaway: Statistically, candidates who are slightly older—by an average of 2.2 years—have been winners.

Readers: do you see any meaningful trends that I’ve failed to notice here?
(h/t to Cape Breton University’s Stewart McCann for the data)

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate