Americans elect thousands of officials at all levels of government. The people who run for office vary greatly in terms of ideology, goals, campaign strategies, and outlooks, but all must campaign to win.


All federal offices have eligibility requirements, some more stringent than others. The eligibility requirements for elected federal offices are summarized in the following table.




RepresentativeAt least 25 years old, a citizen for at least 7 years, and a resident of the state he or she represents
SenatorAt least 30 years old, a citizen for at least 9 years, and a resident of the state he or she represents
President and Vice PresidentAt least 35 years old, a natural-born citizen, a U.S. resident for at least 14 years

Traits of Office Seekers

Most elected officials are older, white males and usually wealthier than the average citizen. In the last few decades, more women and minorities have taken office at the state and federal levels, but they hold office in disproportionately low numbers. Following the 2002 elections, for example, just sixty-two women served as members of the House. After the 2004 elections, only one African American served in the Senate. The homogeneity of officeholders does not reflect the diversity of the population of the United States.

Professional, Ambitious, and Driven

Most people who run for office are professionals, such as businesspeople, doctors, and, above all, lawyers. Blue-collar workers and manual laborers occasionally run for office, but not in proportion to their numbers. Because they are predominantly professionals, candidates are, on the whole, more educated than the average citizen.

Popular pages: The Political Process