Conventional wisdom has long answered this question in the affirmative and my unscientific observation after doing this blog for about a dozen years agrees. So do such people as Winston Churchill or Victor Hugo to whom this quotation has been attributed (among others):
”Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.
Even if you disagree with that sentiment, voting statistics from many years mostly support the actuality of it, including exit polls from the 2012 U.S. presidential election:
|Age Group||% of Electorate||% Voted for Obama|
The same age phenomenon is true going back several decades in British elections as reported in a story at The Conversation website by Oxford University Professor of Politics, James Tilley:
”Older people are always more likely to support the Conservatives,” he writes. “For example, when I voted for the first time in the 1997 election, only 23% of people my age (20) voted Conservative. In contrast, 42% of people my grandmother’s age (80) supported the Conservatives.”
Tilley posits that it might be that people vote Conservative as they get older because it is a biological imperative or that one's generation is what makes the difference:
”This could be because the ageing process makes people more conservative (with a small c), or because older people have different lifestyles, and therefore different priorities when voting.
“...Older generations of voters, who were brought up in different circumstances to younger voters, could vote differently as a result.”
Last year, The New York Times reported on a voting study involving hundreds of thousands of American respondents that seems to support a generational explanation:
”...whites born in 1941...came of age under Eisenhower, who was popular throughout his presidency. By the time Eisenhower left office in 1961, people born in the early 1940s had accumulated pro-Republican sentiment that would last their entire lifetimes.
“In contrast, people born a decade later – baby boomers – were too young to be influenced much by the Eisenhower years. Childhoods and formative years under Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon left them relatively pro-Democratic.”
So, the study concluded, it is no longer true in the U.S. that “Republican vote share increases linearly with age.”
“Instead, young voters and some baby boomers lean Democratic, with a complicated curve in between.”But, but, but – the same article also states that the study model
”...assumes generations of voters choose their team, Democrats or Republicans, based on their cumulative life experience — a running tally of events.”Huh? Didn't they just say that childhood influences last a lifetime?
Leaaving that contradiction aside, it turns out that the longitudinal study of more than 50 years that Oxford Professor Tilley looked into found different voting patterns in Britain than the Times's study is reporting:
“...Conservatives probably shouldn’t be too worried about their support base thinning out and being replaced by younger, less conservative generations.
”If history repeats itself, then as people get older they will turn to the Conservatives. Our evidence suggests that this is probably not due to 'social ageing' (getting married, having children or an increasing income), but rather to the direct psychological processes of ageing that tend to make people more resistant to change.”
Well, Tilley doesn't offer any evidence that a lean toward conservatism is automatic with age and I would like to think his conclusion is not so, but the social and political atmospheres of our two countries so often mesh.
After many years of tracking elders' political leanings, listening to too many old Republicans say idiot things like, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare” and watching them vote in droves against their own best interests, I have trouble believing elders will change conventional wisdom in 2016 U.S. election.