Sixteen months from choosing a new president, America’s younger voters are looking for a candidate who is highly educated, charismatic, motivating and compassionate, while older voters instead are seeking a leader who is strong and decisive, embodies patriotism and can command respect from other countries. Those are among the key findings of a new nationwide survey of voters conducted by Sachs Media Group.
The survey did find areas of agreement among voters at opposite ends of the age spectrum, with one of the results suggesting that the likes of Jon Stewart, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel have it right when they inject humor into the campaign. Millennials and older voters equally value a candidate’s sense of humor, along with the qualities of open-mindedness, to a significantly greater extent than voters ages 35-64.
“This election cycle, perhaps like never before, voters are focused on what kind of person they want in the White House – not just a candidate’s position on issues, but the personal qualities that make up the person,” said Ron Sachs, president and CEO of Sachs Media Group. “This poll makes it clear that younger voters are looking for some different traits in their next president than older voters are. Like a country music star trying for crossover success among pop fans, the candidates will have to achieve some mainstream appeal to hit it big.”
The Sachs Media Group poll, an online survey of 1,022 American voters conducted June 23-July 2, placed Jeb Bush in the lead among Republican candidates with 16 percent support, but finds Ben Carson close behind at 14 percent. Close behind them were Marco Rubio (11 percent), Donald Trump (9 percent) and Scott Walker (7 percent). A total of 14 percent of Republican voters expressed no opinion or said they preferred none of the current field of candidates – with almost one in four Millennials (24 percent) still undecided.
Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton led with 46 percent, followed by Bernie Sanders (21 percent) and Joe Biden (8 percent). A total of 13 percent of Democratic voters expressed no opinion or said they preferred none of the current field of candidates.
The Sachs Media Group poll, which has an average margin of error of 3.5 percent, goes beyond traditional “horse race” polls to assess what attributes voters prefer to see in candidates, and how those impressions are shaped by a voter’s age.
Members of the so-called Millennial generation, ages 18-34, differed significantly from older voters in identifying the following traits as “very important” or “most important” in the next president:
- Highly educated (72 percent)
- Charismatic and motivating (59 percent)
- Compassionate (69 percent)
In contrast, voters age 65 and older differed significantly from Millennials in identifying the following traits as “very important” or “most important” in the next president:
- Strong and decisive – 87 percent said this is a “very” or the “most important” trait
- Patriotic – 81 percent said this is a “very” or the “most important” trait
- Can command respect from other countries – 88 percent said this is a “very” or the “most important” trait
The survey also identified preferred qualities shared by both Millennials and older voters:
- Open-mindedness – Seen as “very” or the “most important” trait by 78 percent of both Millennials and older voters, with voters ages 35-64 caring significantly less
- Sense of humor – Seen as “very” or the “most important” trait by 50 percent of older voters and 40 percent of Millennials, with voters ages 35-64 caring significantly less
- Honesty and trustworthiness – Seen as “very” or the “most important” trait by 90 percent of Millennials and 88 percent of older voters
“Highly interesting are differences between Millennials and older voters within the same political party,” said Dr. Karen Cyphers, director of Sachs Media Group’s Breakthrough Research division, who oversaw the survey. “For example, more than three-quarters of older Republicans strongly value a candidate’s business experience, yet fewer than half of Millennial Republicans feel this way. Similarly, older Democrats find a candidate’s sense of humor more important than Millennial Democrats do, by a 20-point margin. Perhaps this is because older Democrats came of age with a steady diet of televised political humor – we can almost think of this as ‘Generation SNL.’ ”
Sachs Media Group, based in Tallahassee, Fla., is a leading integrated marketing communications firm with diverse advertising, branding, digital and market research services. The firm has additional offices in Orlando, Boca Raton, Tampa and Washington, D.C.
The complete poll results, including demographic and regional breakdowns, are available at https://sachsmedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Sachs-Media-Presidential-Survey.pdf.