According to Presidential eligibility conditions, a President can serve if they are at least 35 years old:

  • be a natural-born U.S. citizen of the United States;
  • be at least 35 years old;
  • be a resident in the United States for at least 14 years

The second condition seems to have been a great trouble for some candidates:

Many youth rights groups view current age of candidacy requirements as unjustified age discrimination.

In 1972, Linda Jenness ran as the SWP presidential candidate, although she was 31 at the time. Since the U.S. Constitution requires that the President and Vice President be at least 35 years old, Jenness was not able to receive ballot access in several states in which she otherwise qualified

Also, quite a few Western / developed states have age requirement as low as 18 years old: Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France.

Why not lower this threshold? It seems that in US it is quite hard to become a young president anyway.


4 Answers 4


The reason for the founding fathers to do this was in part because they viewed the President as supposed to be an elder statesman who had shown through his career to be reliable in his values and not prone to the changing whims of the public, as well as effectively lead the nation and represent a generally unifying acceptance of a large majority of people over a wide majority of states as the job would largely be the guy who has to represent the nation to the rest of the world.

Of all the age restrictions in the Constitution, it is the oldest with Representatives needing to be 25 years old and Senators needing to be 30 years old. It should also be noted that the youngest person elected to President was Kennedy at age 43, and the youngest President ever was Teddy Roosevelt, who ascended from Vice President, following McKinley's assassination, at age 42. Most Presidents were in their 60s, with Donald Trump (70 at inauguration and 69 at election) edging out Reagan (69 at Inauguration, and when asked during a debate in 1984 if the age of the candidate should be a deciding factor, famously quipped that he "would not exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience." His opponent, Walter Mondale, responded by visibly laughing on screen.)

  • 19
    This is the better answer because it addresses why it's in the constitution, not just that the requirement comes from the constitution.
    – Andy
    Feb 7, 2020 at 15:48
  • 15
    For those who may be curious, Mondale was 56 in 1984, having been born in January 1928.
    – phoog
    Feb 7, 2020 at 17:19
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    "who had shown through his career to be reliable in his values and not prone to the changing whims of the public" - heh. Feb 7, 2020 at 17:26
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    @user253751: This is what the Founding Fathers were thinking when they drafted the constitution. They also thought Americans would be more concerned about who's in charge of the Legislature than the Presidency (which is why the Legislature was written first). Naturally, what they wanted to happen and what the American People did occasionally did not align.
    – hszmv
    Feb 7, 2020 at 17:36
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    This doesn't really answer the question, though. It explains why the requirement was in the Constitution in the first place, but not why it is still there. Which of course is (as @Colin's answer explains) because a) it is quite difficult to amend the Constitution; and b) not very many people would want such an amendment.
    – jamesqf
    Feb 7, 2020 at 18:25

The age minimum is set by the US Constitution. It is very challenging to pass constitutional amendments, and so far not enough people have both wanted to change and cared enough about changing the age minimum for it to be changed via constitutional amendmendment.

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    I think the caring part is quite importanr. Most presidents are former senators, governors, or vice presidents and becoming any of those three is also quite difficult and takes time. So there simply isn't very many would-be good presidential candidates under the age of 35. Feb 7, 2020 at 13:49
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    ..... and the people most likely to benefit from such a change, even indirectly, are the least likely to vote, statistically. Feb 7, 2020 at 15:50
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    In addition to the "not caring enough" group, you'd also have to consider that there'd probably be a fairly large group actively opposed.
    – jamesqf
    Feb 7, 2020 at 18:27
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    On top of this, we still have not had a situation where someone under 35 was a clearly and convincingly better person for the job than everyone 35 and older. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
    – EvilSnack
    Feb 7, 2020 at 22:43
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    @EvilSnack: AFAIK we've not even had a situation where a person under 35 could be considered a credible candidate. At least since Teddy Roosevelt, and he only became President because McKinley eas assassinated.
    – jamesqf
    Feb 8, 2020 at 3:07

Your title question reads as a somewhat more mechanical point than your closing one, but perhaps I’m just mincing words.

Why does US still require the President a fairly high age (35) in order to be able to serve?

Possibly more daunting than the requirements needed to amend the constitution is the incentive to do so in the first place. From a standpoint of their job, members of congress are elected to represent the interests of the people of their state/district. From that perspective, it would be a poor use of the public servants’ resources to pursue a change few of their constituents want or care about. At the risk of stereotyping, as we age it is fairly common to view the inexperience of those younger than us as less suited to leadership than we like to think of our older and wiser selves. So with relatively little concern among the voting-eligible population and over 2/3 of that population being over 35, it seems most of the constituency is unlikely to want their representatives make this happen.

Then consider the composition of congress itself. The vast majority is well over 35. This implies you’d need 2/3 of a collection of people averaging well beyond 35 to vote for it even if it were gaining popularity among voters.

Why not lower this threshold?

I read this as more philosophically pondering whether there is reason for the limit’s existence. hszmv already spoke to the founding fathers’ reasoning. There are plenty of quotes attributed through centuries to famous elders maligning the youth of the day https://proto-knowledge.blogspot.com/2010/11/what-is-wrong-with-young-people-today.html and examples of youth discounting their elders (OK Boomer). Philosophical questions rarely have a single truth. Here’s a barometer. Think back to a 1/3 of your life ago. Do you feel you were better equipped to and likely to make better decisions then or now? There are other factors, but overall experience usually counts for something. Assuming we would like “the leader of the free world” to make good decisions, it’s not the worst limit in the world.


Based on youth rights groups viewing the 35/yr age requirement for president as "unjustified age discrimination" and various western nations having 18 as the age requirement, "Why not lower this threshold?"

While the constitution does specify the age requirement, the age can be amended. Even so, why the age shouldn't be amended comes down to brain development into adulthood. The prefrontal cortex is the last part of the human brain to develop. Research indicates that the prefrontal cortex continues to mature into your 30s and reaches full maturation around 35 years old. The prefrontal cortex (the adult brain) is responsible for using reason rather than emotion to make decisions. Adults in the mid 30s forward are better at sorting, compartmentalizing, and understanding information in the world; therefore having a fully developed prefrontal cortex makes for better decision making, greater understanding, and better leadership skills overall. 18 year old's are often run by their emotions, whereas 35 year old's are run by logic and the ability to manage their emotions in an adult way to ensure decision making isn't purely emotional.

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    By that logic, wouldn't one need a maximum age as well? There comes a time when brains have difficulty with basic tasks like speech.
    – JJJ
    Feb 8, 2020 at 12:39
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    @JJ for Transparency and Monica: This is false. There are DISEASES that cause mental difficulties, just as there are diseases like cancer & heart disease that cause physical difficulties, and the longer you live the greater your risk of getting any of them. But it's perfectly possible to reach 80 or even 100 without being affected. FTM it's also possible to be pretty darned dumb at any age :-(
    – jamesqf
    Feb 8, 2020 at 16:55
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    @jamesqf yea, it's also possible to be of above average skills overall below the age of 35. On average, those aged above 35 may be more likely to have above average skills, but looking at it that way there's probably an upper limit where it starts to go down as well. So the argument is flawed in that way, I think, applying one standard to one group while not applying it to another group.
    – JJJ
    Feb 8, 2020 at 16:58
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    @JJ for Transparency and Monica: Sure, but anyone below the age of 35 who has above average skills will eventually reach the age of 35 with those skills intact. (Barring premature death or disabling accident, of course.) OTHO, a person who reaches whatever maximum age you establish is not going to get any younger.
    – jamesqf
    Feb 9, 2020 at 4:01
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    Don't forget that many of those "youth right groups" are financed by 80-90 year old billionaires (like Soros). So it's basically 80-90 year olds telling teenagers "don't listen to your parents because they are too old to understand you", while making those teenagers malleable to whatever ideological or political agendas people much older than they parents are pushing for.
    – vsz
    Feb 10, 2020 at 7:09

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