Just a Number? Voter Evaluations of Age in Candidate Choice Experiments

← Back to Research


Around the world, humans are living longer and politicians are getting older. Do voters hold negative views toward these older politicians? We reanalyze the results of eleven conjoint design-based candidate choice experiments from six democracies, revealing that older candidates are consistently perceived more negatively by respondents–both compared to the youngest alternative and compared to the second oldest alternative. We then report the findings of a novel conjoint experiment on Japanese voters designed to elicit whether the arbitrary milestone of entering a new decade of age (70 versus 69 years of age) affects respondents’ attitudes toward a hypothetical candidate. Although at most 729 days separate candidates of these ages, we find a significant penalty for the older candidate. The penalty is more severe among respondents who are themselves younger than 70, who express disagreement with the statement that older politicians make better leaders, and who voted in the previous election.


  • Eshima, Shusei and Smith, Daniel M.,. 2020. ``Just a Number? Voter Evaluations of Age in Candidate Choice Experiments.’’ Working Paper, Available at SSRN.