Most Voters Back Presidential Competency Tests — Without an Age Limit
A large bipartisan contingent of voters say presidential candidates should have to pass a mental competency test, but few are aligned with Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley’s call to restrict it only to the oldest candidates for public office, according to a new Morning Consult/Politico survey.
Few Voters Back Competency Tests Exclusively for Presidential Candidates Older Than 75
Mental competency tests for president have broad support
- Three in 4 voters (74%), including 71% of Democrats and 77% of Republicans, said presidential candidates of any age should have to pass a mental competency test. Less than a fifth of Democratic and GOP voters (15%) said the gauge of cognitive fitness should only apply to those older than 75.
- Only 11% of voters said presidential candidates should not have to pass a mental competency test at any age, though respondents older than 65 were more likely to say this, at 18%.
- While a slim majority of voters across party lines said a competency test for candidates older than 75 is “not asking much,” a third said it would be “disrespectful,” including 43% of Democrats and 25% of Republicans.
How Haley’s argument stacks up with GOP voters
Haley’s call for mandatory mental competency tests for America’s oldest politicians is unlikely to become law given constitutional qualms and the fact that, in addition to presidential candidates, it would impact roughly 1 in 10 sitting members of Congress.
And while it’s prompted some allegations of ageism, notably from 81-year-old Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), it’s also allowed Haley, 51, to indirectly highlight 76-year-old former President Donald Trump’s septuagenarian status — a potentially potent argument with the GOP electorate.
While just 15% of Republican voters said it’s important for the party’s standard-bearer to be, like Haley, a woman and a person of color, 46% said it’s important for the GOP to elevate someone from a new generation of political leaders — as Haley has cast herself.
Another 64% said it’s important for the party’s 2024 nominee to be under the age of 70. But that isn’t to say Republican voters doubt Trump’s mental acuity.
Republicans More Likely Than Democrats to Say Their Standard-Bearer Would “Definitely Pass” Mental Competency Test
Voter perceptions of Biden’s and Trump’s cognitive ability
- Republican voters (56%) are more likely to say Trump would “definitely pass” a mental competency test than Democrats are regarding Biden (41%).
- Among the overall electorate, 53% of voters say Trump could at least probably certify his mental acuity, compared with 45% who said the same of Biden.
- Nearly half of voters (49%) — including 54% of independents — say Biden could probably not prove his competency, compared with 42% who doubt Trump.
The latest Morning Consult/Politico survey was conducted Feb. 24-26, 2023, among a representative sample of 2,009 registered voters, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Eli Yokley is Morning Consult’s U.S. politics analyst. Prior to his current role, Eli was Morning Consult’s senior reporter covering U.S. politics. Eli joined Morning Consult in 2016 from Roll Call, where he reported on House and Senate campaigns after five years of covering state-level politics in the Show Me State while studying at the University of Missouri in Columbia, including contributions to The New York Times, Politico and The Daily Beast. Follow him on Twitter @eyokley. Interested in connecting with Eli to discuss his analysis or for a media engagement or speaking opportunity? Email [email protected].