Bob Dole's Age and Health in the 1996 Election: Did the Media Let Us Down?

The age of Senator Robert Dole, the oldest man ever to run for the presidency, was a substantive issue in the election of 1996. But was it influential in the minds of the electorate as they cast their ballots? We consider in this article the association of aging with the likelihood of illness and of significant cognitive change. We also examine the risk factors revealed by Senator Dole's personal and family medical history. To determine how much of this information was available to the public, we analyze media content on these subjects across the election year. We then trace the sources of the public's assessment of whether Dole's age and health would affect his performance as president and whether this judgment, in turn, affected the likelihood of voting for him.