- The Washington Times - Friday, February 29, 2008

Sen. John McCain need not fear the dreaded “geezer” factor: Most Americans do not think the Arizona Republican is too old to be president, according to a pair of surveys released yesterday.

Mr. McCain is 71. Still, more than three quarters of Americans — 76 percent — say he is not too old to be president, a new Gallup poll shows.

Most people think he’s actually younger than he is: 57 percent guess Mr. McCain is under 70 while 35 percent think he’s under 65. Overall, the average guess puts him at 67 — a finding which should bring “some comfort” to the White House hopeful, according to pollster Frank Newport.

That’s better than Bob Dole fared in the 1996 presidential race. At the time, Mr. Dole was 72; a similar Gallup poll taken that year found that two thirds of the respondents said he was not too old for the job.

Meanwhile, Sen. Barack Obama doesn’t need to fret over his age either, the new survey found. Eight out of 10 respondents said the Illinois Democrat was not “too young” to be president. At 46, Mr. Obama would be the third youngest American leader — behind Theodore Roosevelt, who was 42 when elected, and John F. Kennedy, who was 43.

On average, respondents were quite accurate guessing Mr. Obama’s exact age: 17 percent said he was under 40 while 15 percent thought he was over 51. The researchers did not ask whether Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was too old for the White House, only broaching the topic of how old she appears to be.

“There’s presumed good news,” Mr. Newport noted. The average guess was 56 — when the New York Democrat is actually 60.

The survey of 2,021 adults was conducted Feb. 21-24, with a margin of error of two percentage points.

The Pew Research Center also pondered the age question, with findings that could dispel concerns over Mr. McCain’s septuagenarian state.

Overall, 72 percent of the respondents didn’t think he was too old to be president. Age discrimination was more common, in fact, among Mr. McCain’s peers.

“In general, McCain’s age is of greater concern to older voters than it is to younger voters. Just 24 percent of voters under age 35 believe that McCain is too old to serve. But among voters who themselves are of retirement age, 40 percent say McCain is too old,” the survey said.

When asked to describe Mr. McCain in one word, the most frequently mentioned term was “old,” followed by honest, experienced, patriot, conservative, hero, liberal, good, integrity and leader.

For Mr. Obama, the most oft-cited word was “inexperienced,” followed by charismatic, intelligent, change, inspirational, young, new, enthusiastic, hope and arrogant.

For Mrs. Clinton, the top mentioned word was “experienced,” followed by strong, untrustworthy, intelligent, smart, determined, “rhymes with rich,” knowledgeable, capable and competent.

The Pew survey of 1,508 adults was conducted Feb. 20-24 and has a margin of error of three percentage points.

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