Election 2016: The perfect candidate

Washington CNN  — 

If you could create the perfect candidate to succeed Barack Obama as president, what would their background be and what would they think?

A new CNN/ORC poll finds most Americans say they would like a candidate who’s a seasoned political leader, someone with an executive background, and someone who’s willing to change Barack Obama’s policies.

Rather than assessing the traits of individual candidates, the poll asked respondents to think about their perfect candidate and choose between two statements relating to several different traits often found in presidential candidates.

SEE: The complete CNN/ORC poll

Would the perfect successor to Obama be someone with ideological purity or someone who had a great chance at winning? Someone who has had economic success or someone who’s never been wealthy? Someone who relies on their religious views to guide policy or someone who believes religion should have no place in government?

perfect candidate 2016

Three statements generated wide-reaching support. Fifty-nine percent of Americans say they’d like a candidate who has been in the public eye as a political leader for many years over one who’s new to the political scene. Further, 59% say they prefer a candidate with executive experience over one who’s worked as a legislator, and 57% say their perfect Obama successor would change most of the policies enacted by Obama’s administration.

A long history in the political limelight is appealing to a broad swath of Americans, with majorities across age, race and education lines saying they prefer someone who’s been in the public eye as a political leader for many years.

READ: About 50% say Obama’s a success, poll says

There is a partisan tinge to the results of this question, however, with Democrats – who will choose from a field whose leading contender has decades in the public eye – more apt to prefer a seasoned leader (77%) than Republicans (51%). On the GOP side, 46% say they would rather see someone who is new to the political scene take the White House in 2016, and their party’s field includes several contenders who fit that bill.

Overall, 57% say their perfect Obama successor would change most of the policies of the Obama administration, while 41% prefer that the next president continue most of his policies. Republicans are near unanimous in their search for a change in most of Obama’s policies: 94% want that. Among Democrats, 22% are looking for changes while 77% would prefer Obama’s policies to remain in place.

Digging further on the type of experience voters would like to see in a presidential contender, Republicans broadly prefer a candidate with more experience as an executive, either in business or in government, with strong leadership skills (74%), while Democrats are almost evenly split between such an executive (51%) and a candidate with a lot of experience as a legislator who has had to bring about compromise (49%). Independents prefer an executive background, 58% to 41%.

On the issues, the public is almost evenly split on whether they would prefer a presidential candidate who shares their views on all major issues over one who shares fewer views and has a better chance of winning (51% chose “shares views,” 47% “better chance to win”).

POLL: Hillary Clinton still tops in 2016

After eight years with a Democrat in the White House, Republicans are most apt to say they’ll take a candidate who shares some of their views and has a better chance of winning (59%) while Democrats tilt toward one who shares their views across the board (51%). Among independents, more favor agreement on issues, by a 58% to 40% margin.

Most Americans say they’d prefer a candidate who has had economic success in their life over one who’s never been wealthy: 53% prefer someone who’s experienced economic success, compared with 40% who would prefer a candidate who hasn’t been wealthy.

And a majority of Americans would rather have a candidate who says religious views have no place in government (56%) over one who believes religious views ought to drive policy (42%). Here, there are sharp ideological divides. About 6 in 10 Republicans (61%) and conservatives (62%) say they’d rather a candidate who believes religious views should drive policy action, while Democrats (62%) and liberals (82%) break mostly the opposite way. Independents tend to favor the Democrats’ take on this question: 62% say their perfect candidate wouldn’t use religion to make policy choices.

There’s also a wide age break on religion’s role in policy, mirroring the overall demographic trend in the U.S. away from organized religion. Seventy percent of those under age 35 say their ideal candidate wouldn’t use religion to make policy decisions, while a majority of those over age 65 (53%) think religious views should drive policy.

The CNN/ORC International poll was conducted by telephone March 13-15 and included interviews with 1,009 adult Americans. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.