Age is a factor in leadership worldwide, with most world leaders falling in their 50s and 60s, while the U.S. stands out as one of the few “free” countries with leaders in their 80s.
Old Age and Political Freedom
According to the Pew Research Center, Leaders from countries all across the globe span a wide age range, from 35-year-old Ibrahim Traoré of Burkina Faso to 90-year-old Paul Biya of Cameroon.
However, most world leaders are in hold power in their 50s and 60s. Surprisingly, women leaders tend to be younger, with Finland’s former prime minister, Sanna Marin, taking office at just 34.
According to Freedom House, older leaders outside of the United States are more common in countries with less political freedom, where they can manipulate the system to stay in power longer.
Examples include Russia’s Vladimir Putin (70), Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (69), and China’s Xi Jinping (70). In the United States, President Joe Biden is not only the first 80-year-old in the Oval Office but also one of the mere 5% of world leaders in their 80s.
Old But ‘Free’
Biden’s potential 2024 opponent, Donald Trump, isn’t far behind at 77, while Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is 81.
The median age of House lawmakers in the 118th Congress is 57.9, slightly lower than the 117th Congress.
In contrast to Congress, the Senate’s median age continues to rise and now stands at 65.3, up from 62.4 four years ago. This is a steep rise from the 1980s when most U.S. lawmakers were in their 50s.
Remarkably, the United States is one of only two countries that are classified as “free” while having leaders in their 80s or older.
In a study by Freedom House, the U.S. scores 83 out of 100 in their Global Freedom Score based on citizens’ access to political rights and civil liberties.
Voters Like to Vote for ‘Peers’
So, why does the age of politicians in the U.S. not align with the age of the population they represent?
Three factors may explain this mismatch.
Firstly, members of Congress are staying in office for longer than ever before.
Secondly, Americans tend to favor incumbents, electing them repeatedly.
Lastly, older adults, who tend to vote more consistently, often vote for candidates closer to their age.
Requiring Accumulated the Wealth
In contrast, European countries often feature younger leaders due to their fragmented political landscapes, enabling newer parties to emerge quickly.
Charismatic, younger politicians often rise to prominence in these countries, contributing to the lower median age of European heads of government (53).
Financial constraints play a significant role in keeping younger candidates from running in the U.S.
Running for the highest U.S. office requires massive amounts of money, favoring candidates with name recognition and established reputations.
In contrast, European countries often require less funding to run for office.
When evaluating the fitness of political leaders, physical and mental health play crucial roles.
President Biden appears to be in good health, abstaining from alcohol and tobacco and maintaining a regular exercise routine. However, he has occasionally exhibited lapses in memory during speeches.
Former President Trump’s doctors claim he is in good health, though some physicians consider his weight to be clinically obese.
Despite recent public incidents, Mitch McConnell’s doctors have ruled out seizure disorders, strokes, or movement disorders. For intelligence officials, mental fitness is a critical factor in determining access to classified information.
Is Biden Too Old?
Unlike intelligence officials, members of Congress gain access to classified material through their elected positions, relying on senior leadership to determine fitness for access to sensitive information.
A recent poll revealed that 77% of respondents, including 89% of Republicans and 69% of Democrats, believe Biden is too old for four more years in office.
This sentiment was even seen across age groups, showing serious concern about the President of the United States age.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / MIA Studio