by Andrew Kohut, President, Pew Research Center
Special to the New York Times
As John McCain comes ever closer to securing the Republican nomination, his age has remained notably absent as a campaign issue.
So far it has attracted so little attention that the network exit pollsters have not included even one question on the subject in 23 state surveys — an extraordinary occurrence given that Sen. McCain would be the oldest man ever to take office, if he were to win the presidency.
Other polling data exist, however, that strongly suggests that the Arizona senator’s age could become a big issue for him in the general campaign.
Add to this, of course, Bob Dole’s unsuccessful 1996 presidential campaign where his age — he turned 73 during the summer of that year — was very much on the minds of many American voters.
The polling in this campaign shows that while some voters may be reluctant to admit that they will not cast a ballot for a black or a woman, larger numbers are not at all shy about voicing reservations about voting for an older presidential candidate.