In some countries, politicians are actually getting younger

Updated Aug 31, 2023, 12:47pm EDT
Top U.S. Senate Republican Mitch McConnell appears to freeze up for more than 30 seconds during a public appearance before he was escorted away on Wednesday.
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politicsNorth America
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The latest episode in which U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared to freeze while speaking to reporters renewed conversations about the gerontocratic nature of the American government.

But in many parts of the world, politicians are getting younger.

Globally, parliaments have gotten slightly younger, with 30% of the world's MPs under the age of 45, according to a 2021 report from the Inter-Parliamentary Union.1 Four countries — Rwanda, Morocco, Kenya and Uganda — even have specially reserved seats for youth representatives, which the union said is a well-designed way to increase age diversity. Countries like Norway and Djibouti — which have young parliaments — have focused efforts to engage youth in politics, while some like Denmark and Sweden have low ages of eligibility to run for office.

The average age of French Assemblée members elected last year was 48.5, compared to 57.5 in the U.S. House and about 64 in the Senate.2 The shift in France followed a "tsunami" of first-time MPs being elected, and a rise in middle-class representation.3 Meanwhile, in the U.K. House of Commons, the average age of an MP has hovered around 50 since 1979.4

The U.S. — which could see 82-year-old Joe Biden run against 78-year-old Donald Trump for president next year — could learn from Norway, which has the world's highest proportion of young politicians, the BBC wrote last year. Norwegian law allows for several people from the same party to be elected in the same district. "This means that an older and well-known man may be the top candidate, but unknown, young women may be nominated for the next positions on the list," a political science professor said.5

American voters generally say they prefer a younger president, and think Biden is too old to serve a second term.6 But the "most powerful force in American politics isn’t age or ideas, but rather incumbency," CNN's Zachary B. Wolf argues. In the 2022 midterms, every single Senate incumbent who ran for reelection won, including 89-year-old Chuck Grassley. And only one incumbent governor lost.7