What the Ideal 2016 Presidential Candidate Looks Like

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Pew Research released a new poll Monday breaking down Americans' preferences for certain candidate attributes, like age, religion, and work experience. The results show what America is looking for in its next president: a straight, drug-free, faithfully monogamous, ex-military, evangelical Christian governor who is younger than 70 years old. 

A majority of respondents went with "wouldn't matter" for most of Pew's selected attributes (experience in D.C and government, plus religiosity being the exceptions), so 2016 is still anybody's race. But there are qualities that saw a sizable difference between favorability and unfavorability, where respondents (to whom the attributes mattered) had a clear preference. It's these categories that should draw the attention of any potential candidates for 2016.


The headline for Pew's latest poll is that Americans no longer see extensive experience in Washington favorably – 30 percent said "many years" in D.C. would make them less likely to vote for a candidate in 2016, while 19 percent said it'd make them "more likely." That's a flip from six years ago, when 35 percent viewed Washington experience as a favorable attribute. 

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Americans still want their candidate to have some experience in office, though, as 52 percent said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who'd never held office. Which means Americans want their candidates to have government experience from somewhere outside of D.C. – the same percentage (44) see time as governor and time in Congress as better preparation for the presidency, and 33 percent said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who's been a governor (which is a good sign for Scott Walker). 


Whether governor or senator, what else are Americans looking for in the perfect candidate? A big plus is military service, which boosts a presidential hopeful with 43 percent of the public, probably because of that Commander-in-Chief business. Some sort of belief in religion is seemingly mandatory, as 53 percent of Americans said they'd be less likely to support an atheist, and evangelical Christian has the slight edge, with 21 percent responding "more likely" to support versus only 9 percent for Catholic. Two-thirds of Americans said it wouldn't matter if a candidate is gay or lesbian (up 15 percent in seven years), but 27 percent still say it'd make them less likely to support a candidate. And candidates are better off not having used marijuana (not that it hurt Obama too badly, though) and never having had an affair. 

A candidate's gender wouldn't matter too much, it seems, with 19 percent saying they'd be more likely to support a woman and 9 percent saying less (though liberals, at 40 percent, are much more likely to support a woman than conservatives at 10 percent), but age would – 36 percent said they'd be less likely to support a candidate 70 years of age or older.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.