WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Being female or black is less of a liability for U.S. presidential candidates than being over 72, Mormon, twice-divorced or a cigarette smoker, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll issued on Tuesday.
With the 2008 presidential race featuring perhaps the most diverse field of White House contenders ever, the poll showed being a woman or an African American carries the least amount of negative baggage.
The poll, which isolated attributes of some candidates but did not ask about any, may be good for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the only woman running, bad for Sen. John McCain, who turns 72 in August 2008 and mixed for Sen. Barack Obama, the only black candidate and a smoker who says he’s quit.
Almost equal percentages of respondents said they would be more or less likely to vote for a woman (14 percent more likely, 13 percent less likely) and an African American (7 percent more likely, 6 percent less likely). Meanwhile, 87 percent said it wouldn’t matter either way if the candidate were black and 72 percent said being a woman wouldn’t matter.
The poll did not ask specifically about New York Democrat Clinton, although 15 percent of those who said they would be less likely to vote for a woman said it was because they didn’t like her.
The telephone poll of 1,082 adults was conducted from Thursday to Sunday and had a 3-point margin of error.
Obama, an Illinois Democrat, has less to worry about from his race than his cigarette smoking habit, which he said he has quit, according to the poll.
Although 77 percent said it wouldn’t matter, 21 percent said they would be less likely to vote for a smoker.
The biggest liability for a candidate, however, was being on the planet for more than 72 years, as will be the case for Arizona Republican McCain in August 2008, the poll showed.
More than half of the respondents, 58 percent, said they were less likely to vote for a presidential candidate of that age, while 39 percent said it wouldn’t matter.
Asked about voting for a candidate who is twice-divorced, a profile that happens to fit former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, 26 percent said they would be less likely to vote for such a candidate, while 71 percent said it wouldn’t matter.
As for voting for a Mormon -- former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the only one in the race -- 29 percent said they would be less likely to do so while 66 percent said it wouldn’t matter.
While there has never been a black, woman or Mormon president, one was over 72 when he was elected (Ronald Reagan in 1984), one was divorced (Reagan again, but only once) and at least one smoked cigarettes (Franklin Roosevelt).