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Are there any studies that confirm or deny an effect of titles one has (university degrees > undergraduate or peerages where they still exist) to the chance of being elected?

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At the presidential level in the United States it is certainly true that a college degree has become effectively mandatory for candidates. In total, only 10 Presidents did not graduate from college at all, and Harry Truman is the only such example after the 19th century.

However, that does not seem to imply that title bearing degrees past an undergraduate level have proven beneficial in the United States. Only 6 Presidents received law degrees, only George W. Bush has an MBA and Woodrow Wilson was the only Ph.D. to become President.

In Congress, the trend is very similar and in the 111th Congress a full 95% of the members had some level of educational degree. In Congress it seems that the education level is marginally higher than for our Presidents with most holding at least a masters degree. In fact, roughly 40% had a law degree and another 20% had some type of masters degree. Only 23 members of the House of Representatives were Ph.D. recipients however.

From this evidence, it appears that on average Americans prefer a candidate with some level of education past high school, but that a title or specific specialization is not important to them.

References:

Presidents

Congress

http://education.yahoo.net/articles/degrees_of_the_presidential_candidates.htm

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    That statistics is slightly inaccurate when viewed for an entire century, because the value of an undegraduate degree before 1960s was significantly higher - both by relative-to-population education level, and by objective knowledge/intelligence required to obtain one - than one after 1960s. Which inflation clearlly is illustrated by the fact that no president since GHWB in 1988 was elected with just undergraduate degree. – user4012 Dec 19 '12 at 22:33
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    Also, a very useful addition would be to compare degree distribution among polititians compared to among the general population. E.g. "23% of Congress has PhD" may be a POSITIVE result if the population as a whole has <23% PhDs, and especially if candidates running for election had <23% PhDs – user4012 Dec 19 '12 at 22:44

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