A Third Of Republicans Support Politicians Without Government Experience, Study Finds


Some 32% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents prefer political leaders with no previous government experience, compared to only 10% of Democrats, according to a new Pew Research Center survey, in a major shift in political leanings from before former President Donald Trump took office.

Key Facts

Almost half of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents (49%) dislike politicians with no prior government experience, according to the Pew Research Center survey of 6,174 U.S. adults conducted between June 27 and July 4.

That’s a flip in party preferences since a March 2015 Pew Research survey–three months before Trump announced his presidential bid–which found more Republicans than Democrats favored a candidate’s experience over new ideas they have (that preference reversed by September 2015, when twice as many Republicans said they prefer new ideas over experience as they had six months earlier).

Overall, 20% of respondents said they like politicians with no previous government experience, while 36% disliked them, including 17% who disliked them a lot.

Support for political leaders without previous experience declines among younger Americans, with 41% of respondents ages 18-29 saying they don’t like politicians without experience, compared to 32% of respondents ages 50-64 and 33% of respondents 65 and older.

Among respondents with postgraduate degrees, opposition to inexperienced politicians jumps to 46%, compared to 38% of college grads, 36% who attended college and 31% who have a high school degree or less.


Four high-profile Senate races in the November midterm elections feature Republican candidates Trump has endorsed who have no political experience: Dr. Mehmet Oz, the high-profile former TV personality running for a Senate seat in Pennsylvania, Herschel Walker in Georgia, Blake Masters in Arizona and J.D. Vance in Ohio.

Key Background

Trump became the first U.S. president with no prior political or military experience, beating Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, running on a promise to “drain the swamp” of what he called a broken political system in Washington, D.C. Trump beat out two other candidates in the 2016 Republican primaries with no prior political experience: retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Previous presidents entered the White House after serving 13 years in public office, on average, according to Vox. In Congress, more than 40% of candidates elected in the 2018 midterm elections had no political experience, the New York Times found. Democrats have also elected political newcomers to office, including Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.), Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.), Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) and Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.). A 2020 report from the Brookings Institute found 70% to 80% of House primary candidates had not held an elected office, and that those political newcomers have been more successful in Republican primaries than in Democratic ones. Researchers argue the Republican Party has become more of an “insurgent movement,” whereas the Democratic Party tends to promote candidates who climb the ranks in political office.

Further Reading

Here’s Trump’s Endorsement Record Midway Through Primary Season (New York Times)

Donald Trump is the only US president ever with no political or military experience (Vox)


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