As the 2016 US Presidential election cycle gears up, contemplating how people actually select a President can be intriguing.
I find the election cycle both entertaining and thought provoking on many levels. In the last two decades, with increasing media (including social media) coverage, the election cycle seems to parallel aspects of some reality TV shows.
The US President a.k.a. POTUS and “Leader of the Free World” is, without doubt, the most important job in the US and one of the most important (if not the most important) on the planet. While reality TV shows can be entertaining, it is in our best interest to “interview” candidates and be educated about the candidate for whom we vote.
A milieu of factors can lead a voter to select one candidate versus another. These factors include the candidate’s background, experiences, accomplishments, stance on various issues, values, personality characteristics, debate performance, vision for the future and our own political views, among others. In addition to a large grouping of prospective factors, each voter undoubtedly gives different weight to varied factors.
So, rather than speculating about all possible factors, we’ve chosen to take a deeper dive into one selection factor, a candidate’s background or resume. In advance of this survey and post, we reviewed articles that covered the actual backgrounds (resumes) of US Presidents to attempt to capture actual work history experience. Fortunately, those who completed the survey also had an “other” experience box option and, therefore, a method to characterize what we may have missed. More on this later…
In a somewhat unscientific and imperfect manner, we asked our connections to fill out a two question online survey through both direct email solicitation and we also posted the survey on LinkedIn. Although our methodology might be scrutinized by professional pollsters, it is worth noting that the professional and executive audience that answered the questions posed hold many advanced degrees including PhD, MD, JD, MBA and others, so the sample of 187 respondents is a well-educated group with a scientific or technical focus.
The Survey Introduction:
US Presidents have come from varied backgrounds. Our intent is to summarize and present actual work history experience as it pertains to public views on what experiences are the most important to our survey respondents. This survey is only concerned with work history experience. Therefore, the subsequent summary findings and post will not consider political party affiliation or ideology. This survey will also not include specific traits such as being a strong public debater.
The Survey Questions Asked:
Please review the following experiences and rank your choices from 1 (Most Important) – 9 (Least Important), in order of preference. It is not necessary to select every option but please select at least 3 options.
3. Political Experience (Aside from Governor / Member of Congress)
4. Military Experience
5. Business Experience (Small Company)
6. Global Business Experience (Large Company)
7. Legal Experience (Aside from former political experience)
8. Other Public Sector Experience
9. Other Experience Not Listed
For Option “Other Experience Not Listed” – Please Provide Detail
(Single Textbox Answer)
The Results of Question 1:
“Other Experience Not Listed” Overview:
Our aim in reviewing the backgrounds of prior US Presidents was to minimize the “Other Experience Not Listed” choice and capture most major categories up front. This method did not disappoint as it was the last choice of the majority of survey respondents. The biggest two categories mentioned, by a good margin, were Foreign / International Relations, Leadership or Affairs (14 mentions) and Non-Profit Philanthropic / Church Volunteerism (9 mentions). The winner for the most whimsical response? Professional Wrestler.
Full Text Response Word Cloud:
The majority (61%) of respondents chose work history involving enterprise scale operations as their number one choice choosing the former experiences of #1, Gubernatorial, at 39% and #2, Global Business Experience (Large Company) at 22%. Moreover, an overwhelming majority of 71% of respondents chose some form of prior work history experience in the political arena by selecting either Gubernatorial, Congressional or Political Experience (Aside from Governor / Member of Congress) as the number one choice.
The Bottom Line:
Although there is no straightforward work history experience to become POTUS, former experience in enterprise scale business and former experience in politics appear to be front and center for the vast majority of respondents.