Washington (CNN) –– Congressional experience isn't the political asset it once was for presidential hopefuls, according to a new national poll.
Instead, a Pew Research Center survey released Monday indicates that serving as a governor may be a better training ground for White House contenders.
According to the poll, 44% of Americans say that serving as a governor better prepares someone to be president, with an equal amount saying serving in Congress is the better preparation. That's a dramatic change from 1987, when by a three-to-one margin Americans said serving in Congress rather than as a governor was the best preparation for being president. Even seven years ago, by at 55%-24% margin, the public said Congress was a better place to get prepared for higher office.
In a separate question which tested whether 16 traits and characteristics would make someone more or less likely to support a candidate for president, a third say they'd be more likely to support a presidential candidate with experience as a governor, compared to only 19% who say they'd be more likely to support a candidate with "many years" of experience as an elected official in Washington.
The 19% who say they'd be more likely to support a presidential contender with lots of Washington experience was down from 35% just seven years ago.
In 2008 Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S senator since John F. Kennedy in 1960 to win election to the White House. But Obama had only served in the Senate for four years before winning the presidency. Before his 2004 election to the Senate, Obama was a state lawmaker in Illinois.
Obama's two immediate predecessors, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, were sitting governors when they were elected president.
The Pew poll indicates that military service remains the most valuable asset for a presidential hopeful among the 16 traits and characteristics. Forty-three percent of those questioned say they would be more likely to back a presidential candidate with military experience.
At the other end of the spectrum, not believing in God and never having held any elective office are seen as the most negative traits.
The Pew Research Center poll was conducted April 23-27, with 1,501 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.