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Why do people get more right-wing with age?

Dr. Thomas Swan studied cognition and culture at Queen's University Belfast. He enjoys exploring the interplay between politics and culture.

Many people become right wing as they age (helpfully illustrated by G.W. Bush).

Many people become right wing as they age (helpfully illustrated by G.W. Bush).

It is often claimed that people become right-wing as they get older. Conservatives attribute this to the wisdom of age, while liberals offer explanations that describe themselves more favorably. As an old and ostensibly content right-winger, Georges Clemenceau once wrote:

"Not to be a socialist at twenty is proof of want of heart; to be one at thirty is proof of want of head."

Clemenceau was hardly going to describe himself as brainless, and similar quotes can be attributed to others who've made the transition to right-wing politics (e.g. Winston Churchill).

Voter demographics support the claim that we get right-wing with age. In the 2012 US presidential election, 18-40 year olds were more likely to vote Democrat, while 40-80 year olds were more likely to vote Republican. Exit polls showed that age was directly correlated with voting Republican, and comparable trends have been reported in other US elections.

The United Kingdom demonstrates similar voting preferences, with 18-34 year olds predominantly voting for the left-wing Labour party, while 55-80 year olds side with the right-wing Conservatives.

There are a number of theories for why this occurs. Depending on one's political allegiance, some of them may appear more attractive than others. Unlike Clemenceau and Churchill, maturity may best be exhibited by picking a theory that doesn't flatter one's ego.

We get pessimistic as we get older.

We get pessimistic as we get older.

Journal Article

Forecasting Life Satisfaction Across Adulthood: Benefits of Seeing a Dark Future? (2013) Lang et al. (PDF file).

Older people can dislike the will for change exhibited by younger individuals.

Older people can dislike the will for change exhibited by younger individuals.

1. Older people are more pessimistic

When Barack Obama became US President in 2009, his message of "change" appealed to many Democrats. Indeed, left-wing politics is associated with activism, social change, and dissolving the status quo, while right-wing ideals are more traditional and conservative.

Pessimists see change as an opportunity for something to go wrong, while optimists embrace it. This means that pessimists are more likely to be right-wing.

Studies show that as people age, they go from optimistic about the future, to realistic, to pessimistic (see article). As older people are more pessimistic, it is likely that they'll be drawn to the traditionalist right.

2. Older people want to preserve the past

The association of left-wing politics with "change" will always disenfranchise older people who wish to preserve established values and traditions. When right-wing political parties talk about preserving family values, what they're really doing is appealing to the older generation who believe these values are being eroded.

3. Younger people can be naive

If older people are pessimistic, it follows that younger people may be too optimistic. This optimism can generate unrealistic expectations about the future that can leave young liberals disappointed when they get older.

For example, the 1960s view that liberalism would succeed in achieving world peace within a single generation may have been misguided. With wars still rumbling in the 21st Century, lost hope could cause an abandonment of the political positions that helped form those expectations.

It should be noted that it is not the fault of liberalism or socialism that some individuals used these political philosophies to form unrealistic expectations about the future. Nevertheless, if liberalism doesn't succeed in one's lifetime, it could easily appear flawed.

Older people are richer and more secure.

Older people are richer and more secure.

4. Older people are richer

Leftists seek to tax the rich, while right-wingers prefer to allow wealth-inequality to remain or widen. As the older generations have more than an average share of the wealth, they may be attracted to the right-wing view. Additionally, older people have had more opportunity to feel resentment about the taxation of their earnings during difficult times.

5. Younger people have uncertain futures

Left-wing socialism is epitomized by extensive welfare schemes that cater for all manner of disadvantaged people. This appeals to younger individuals who are uncertain about what the future holds. If younger people know they have a safety net to fall back on, their concern for the future can be quelled.

Older individuals often have a comfortable lifestyle with less uncertainty about the future. They have already made their way in the world, and they generally have larger savings accounts to rely on. A safety net simply isn't required in the same way. As a result, older individuals may feel that leftist welfare schemes are wasteful.

Differences between left-wing and right-wing brains

Not all old people are right-wing

Many young conservatives and aging lefties will be reading this and thinking, what a load of rubbish! While there is a trend for people to become right-wing as they age, it clearly doesn't apply to everyone. Indeed, old people are not all rich, pessimistic, cynical, traditionalists either. The theories proposed are based on age-based trends, and any conclusion drawn from them will be subject to the same air of estimation.

Additionally, people may be born with a brain physiology that predisposes them to an immutable political position. For example, people with larger amygdalae are more likely to feel threatened by sources of fear, and this can promote conservative thinking. Conservatives have been shown to have larger amygdalae, and this manifests in the womb as a result of their mothers feeling greater stress during pregnancy (see video).

It is possible that all or several of these theories are correct to an extent. With such a vast spectrum of political allegiance, it would be imprudent to suggest that a single factor can explain it all. When picking one or more of these theories, it is worth remembering how old you are, and asking if your chosen theory flatters or belittles you. While our senescent drift towards right-wing values is decidedly opaque, the human ego certainly isn't!


McSpace on August 06, 2016:

Speaking from experience, I became more conservative due to my disillusionment of the political system, but I also wouldn't call myself a Republican either. As a young person during the Clinton era, I realized that my dream of making a difference didn't matter to the party I followed. They just used me for my vote and then did whatever they want. There is a whole new generation now that will feel the same way after what the Democrats did to Bernie. I'll even admit that I even liked the guy.

somethgblue from Shelbyville, Tennessee on May 07, 2015:

I agree with you and the trend is somewhat disturbing as you would think folks that get some experience and wisdom would want to change the reality of our world.

I know from experience most of my friends and family started out as idealist and slowly became the staunch conservatives they detested in their youth.

I was the complete opposite, as I began life in favor of the death penalty, abortion and big military and now can't understand how I could have been so naïve. I'm far more liberal now than I was thirty years ago, so go figure.

I attribute it to going to college in my late forties, having a spiritual awakening and recovering from years of alcoholism and drug addiction. When you wake up to the reality of the world late in life it has the tendency to question the truth behind what you think is real and all the lies you have been fed getting there.

Great Hub, really enjoyed it.

McKenna Meyers on May 06, 2015:

The older folks I know who are very conservative isolate themselves from other points of view. They're retired and spend their days watching FOX news and listening to Rush Limbaugh. Yes, they're very unaccepting of change. Nice hub!

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on January 10, 2015:

Agreed, the two party system is very damaging. One party away from dictatorship.

Brad on January 10, 2015:

Thomas Swan

I was just being funny, age has nothing to with party choice.

Politics like Religion is something people are born into and many never change as they grow older.

If you read some of my hubs, you see that I think that the two party system is the cause of the decline of the US. And these parties are aided by the loyal party voter. An intelligent vote is for the best candidate regardless of party. Unfortunately, both parties only put out candidates that are supposed to be the other party's candidate This results in elections where the vote is most often for the lesser of two evils, and not the best candidate. Neither candidate may be even a good candidate.


Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on January 10, 2015:

And of the far right too, I would hope.

I expect some older folk derive much comfort from the belief that their age guarantees their intelligence.

Brad on January 10, 2015:

Age brings intelligence for those that are not captivated by the Pavlov bell ringing of the far left.

Buildreps from Europe on December 14, 2013:

Good observation. Right wing stands for to preserve 'what is'. It partly comes with age. Young nobilities are mostly right wing too. For me it became fully clear that it's (very) strongly related to wealth (statement 4.). Wealth mostly comes with age.

Mklow1 on November 07, 2013:

I never said you couldn't talk about whatever you like, I merely stated a fact which is not being pedant.

Joshua Patrick from Texas on November 07, 2013:

I'm not going to argue with a pedant. I'll talk about whatever I like, thank you very much.

Mklow1 on November 07, 2013:

I agree, but we are talking about political philosophies, not parties in the sense of Republican vs Democrat, although those parties do have political philosophies, albeit ever-changing to mold with the times (or PR, whichever comes first!lol).

Just because someone can identify their political philosophy does not mean they are "pigeon-holing" themselves.

Joshua Patrick from Texas on November 06, 2013:

I have always been a realist, but I don't align myself with any specific party, as there are philosophies and ideals from all sides that I claim. It's a shame people insist on being pigeon-holed like that.

Mklow1 on November 06, 2013:

Well, then isn't the essence of "becoming" actually changing? Therefore if they are changing their views by becoming more conservative, then they are not afraid of change. I think it is because we all become smarter with age.

JoanCA on November 06, 2013:

If people do become more conservative, I think it's probably a dislike of change. Older people tend to be set in their ways. The world is always changing and I think many older people fear that. Conservatism is basically an attempt to stop change from occurring. It never works because even conservatives over time tend to embrace things like women's right and civil rights that their peers in early generations tried to stop.

mbuggieh on August 26, 2013:

I suspect that the expression of something decidely NOT political affects the ways in which older people interact with politics. Voting is one aspect of political expression, but not necessarily (as data offered in this hub suggests) a definitive expression of one's political ideological or philosophical position. I disagree that something "conservative" and outside of politics may not be at work here.

Walt Kienia from Hartford, Connecticut on August 26, 2013:

From reading this Hub it's clear that the term "conservative" was used in the context of voting, its other meanings outside of politics notwithstanding.

mbuggieh on August 26, 2013:

I find it interesting that we are all assuming that "conservative" refers to politics. Might conservative refer to other variables?

Walt Kienia from Hartford, Connecticut on August 25, 2013:

Interesting Hub.

Rather than go for a blanket statement such as the older we get the more conservative we get in our voting habits, I would suggest that it is based on the situation and the choice of candidates.

Using data from the Roper Center Public Opinion Archives (

we are told that 64% of those voters 65 years and older voted for Reagan in 1984, yet only 51% of that cohort voted for George Bush in '88.

That voting block abandoned the GOP even further in the next two elections as Bill Clinton in '92 and '96 received more than 50% of the 65+ voting block against GOPers Bush and Dole.

George W. received only 47% of the 65+ vote in 2000 against Gore, but increased that to 52% against Kerry in 2004.

The Gallup polling website ( also keeps historical age group statistics, however most of their stats group the seniors in a "50+" group.

Using Gallup's data we see in 1960 that 54% of those 50 years and older voted for Nixon against Kennedy. In 1964, however, Johnson received 59% of this cohorts vote against Goldwater.

And of course the individual voter, far too many of them, cannot correctly identify whether they are conservative or liberal in any race.

mbuggieh on August 14, 2013:

Some information about voter demographics in the United States in the 2012 election cycle:

I found this information most interesting:

"The Woodstockers, 1946-1964

If the Private Generation is leading the way in redefining the age of “encore living”, Woodstockers are not ready to give it up. This is the first cohort where one million will reach the age of 100 and are determined to make the rest of their lives really count .Woodstockers will revolutionize both non-governmental agencies and workplace with skills and experience.

Four in five (80%) are white, only 5% are Hispanic and 10% African American, just 2% Asian Pacific. Woodstockers have one foot planted in two different cultures: origins in an older America and parents of America’s First Global Citizens, American’s twenty-somethings, who they have enabled and imparted. By 43% to 40%, they prefer Governor Mitt Romney over President Obama, however they are more likely to be Democrats (39%) than Republicans (34%)."

Woodstockers are also known as Baby Boomers.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on August 14, 2013:

"But couldn't those people in the older age brackets have always been conservative?"

I wouldn't describe the youth of the 1960s and 70's as conservative; not by any stretch of the imagination.

Mklow1 on August 14, 2013:


You said: "I agree that those statistics would have helped to establish that there is a trend. The article is about offering theories for why that trend (might) exist."

Now, I am merely playing "devil's advocate" but I would think that if you are offering the explanation of why the theories exist, then you should first establish some numbers to back up the theory and show the trend.

The theory is that people become "more" right wing with age, which implies they had been more liberal before. You only show political voting trends for the age groups in 2012. But couldn't those people in the older age brackets have always been conservative?

From the article:

"In the 2012 US presidential election, 18-40 year olds were more likely to vote Democrat, while 40-80 year olds were more likely to vote Republican. Exit polls showed that age was directly correlated with voting Republican, and comparable trends have been reported in other US elections.

The United Kingdom demonstrates similar voting preferences, with 18-34 year olds predominantly voting for the left-wing Labour party, while 55-80 year olds side with the right-wing Conservatives."

This really doesn't back up the theory about "becoming more conservative as one gets older". It only shows that older people tended to vote conservative in these respective elections.

Mklow1 on August 14, 2013:


I agree with you. When you are young, you are easily influenced by those around you i.e. media, college professors, peers, etc...

Every once in a while, someone will do street interviews asking people that say they are politically left, questions about their chosen politician. The interviewer will actually state positions by the opposing politician to see if the one being interviewed agrees with that position, and they usually do.

I am sure they could do that to some on the right, but I haven't seen one yet.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on August 14, 2013:

I agree that those statistics would have helped to establish that there is a trend. The article is about offering theories for why that trend (might) exist.

Mklow1 on August 14, 2013:


I think instead of just showing that in today's world, older people are more likely to be conservative, you should have included statistics showing political affiliation in age groups during the 60's/70's versus now. Then we could have something to compare and contrast to show the progression of younger people moving towards conservatism as they get older, since that is what the article is about.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on August 14, 2013:

Haha, very clever Jeff! I suppose the problem with my reasoning could be that it feels good to point out when other people believe things to make themselves feel good!

Mbuggieh, I would be honored if my hub inspired one of your own!

Roscoe Wallace from Georgia on August 13, 2013:

Personally, I don't choose to believe everything that 'makes me feel good'. If I did, I'd be a liberal. =)

mbuggieh on August 13, 2013:

Perhaps a hub asking why young people are liberals is in order...;)

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on August 13, 2013:

mubuggieh, I would hazard a guess and say `political authenticity' is something that doesn't solely belong at one end of the political spectrum. If you were certain of your leftist beliefs at 20, and you're just as certain of your right-wing beliefs at 50, then all this shows is you could be just as wrong now as you were then. Most political positions have their merits and problems. I would say that authenticity comes from separating out the merits of each position, and not succumbing to partisan right-vs-left thinking where everything that comes out of your camp is gospel. Too many people let others do the thinking for them. They see that fellow left-wingers think nuclear power stations are a bad idea, and they go with it. Others see fellow right-wingers who believe global warming is a scam, so they go with it. That's how these right-wing and left-wing designations are formed.... they're just loose collections of beliefs about vastly different issues that have been bent into two groups, an `us' and a `them', for our primitive tribal minds to digest.

I don't agree with the groupings, but I can at least comment on how the group in which people perceive themselves to be in changes with age.

Anyway, to say that one of these groupings is inherently more "wise" than another, when one happens to adopt that position, well... it begs the response I gave. If a liberal had commented to say that liberalism is a more intelligent position because younger people have a faster rate of growing new braincells, I would have said the same thing. People from all persuasions like to flatter themselves.

Kimberly Goodwin from Concord, NH on August 13, 2013:

I think as we age we research more about what is really going on. When we are younger we are caught up being young and only listening to mainstream media.

mbuggieh on August 13, 2013:

So what constitutes political authenticity from the left OR the right?

shamsAlAriyaf on August 13, 2013:

Conservatives are liberal in economics, while liberals are conservatives in economics.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on August 13, 2013:

I was going to write a longer comment, but I might as well summarize by saying: that's not what I said at all. Flattering oneself doesn't apply to all conservatives, there is nothing wrong with being conservative, and the statement could just as easily be applied to liberals. So to your final question, no, with a quizzical `WTF'.

mbuggieh on August 13, 2013:

So, if we are not growing more conservative as a function of age or wisdom or tempering of thought through experience, then what is it? How is it that radicals of the 1960s (like myself) can become increasingly conservative with age; increasing critical of radicalism and liberalism?

Basically, if one reads between the lines of your comment, those of us who grow increasingly conservative are making excuses about of evolution in an effort to make ourselves "feel good" as though conservatives and conservatism are things we need to work on feeling good about.

Do only those who retain youthful liberalism have a claim to political authenticity?

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on August 13, 2013:

If you're right-wing, I'm sure that's nice to believe. If I have any shred of wisdom, then it's borne out in the words, "people often believe what makes them feel good".

mbuggieh on August 13, 2013:

I agree.

I think wisdom tempers our thoughts and tempered thoughts are more conservative; more experienced. And I think wisdom and experience help us to better understand what's really going on in the world.

Roscoe Wallace from Georgia on August 12, 2013:

As many have said here: wisdom.

When I was younger, I was more liberal-minded.

The older I get, the more life experience I gain, and the more I feel I see the world for what it really is, instead of viewing it through the lens of inexperience.

Kimberly Goodwin from Concord, NH on August 12, 2013:

we get smarter with age.

mbuggieh on August 05, 2013:

I find the "ad hominen" attack entirely amusing---and for more reasons than I care to list.

That said: US History---particularly the history of the Americas, is deeply nuanced as is the history of World War II and the Cold War and America's international and domestic policies (both overt and covert) during each.

The world in which we live (and have lived) is a nuanced and complicated place. Nothing is black OR white; nothing is right OR wrong. Nothing.

That said, read my comments again. Try understanding the words that I actually wrote---without reference to your predetermined sense of what you presumed that I was likely to write.

Eli Moore on August 05, 2013:


I think you have an awfully simplistic view of the world. Believing in the myths of America such as that it was built by God and the mythological Industrious American is actually not far off from German neopagan myths about the Great German Worker.

So it is actually a rather appropriate analogy.

Also, US industry -- who absolutely do dominate our government -- praised Mussolini in the 1930s as a great moderate who was keeping Italy in order.

The State Department supported Mussolini.

Sir, have you ever heard of the South American dictator Augusto Pinochet? This man was a fascist wielding the ideology of the neoliberal "Chicago Boys."

Do you know who one of the key Chicago Boys was? Milton Friedman, economic adviser to none other than Ronald Regan.

What about the dictators in the Middle East that our government and business community support?

Sir, you have no idea what you are talking about. Fascism actually has a huge relationship with international business -- who do run our government.

It's sad that you are old enough to witness dictatorships like Pinochet and the overthrow of democratically elected presidents like Salvador Allende in Chile, all supported by US politicians and intellectuals and then sit here saying that these things are all myths and that fascism is a "left-wing political" ideology.

mbuggieh on August 05, 2013:

Some thoughts:

First: Fascism is not a term used to describe angry people or people with whom one disagrees. Fascism actually has a meaning. In simple terms fascism was (and perhaps is IF it exists anywhere): Radical nationalism in which the primacy of the state over the individual informs society and government. Fascism advocates a mixed economy---somewhere between communism and capitalism. Fascism advocates the police state and imperialism rooted in ancient myths of past and/or historic greatness of a failed nation.

Second: Hard work built the United States and only hard work will sustain it into the future.

Third: Business does not control voting; Americans control voting---and yet, most of them fail to exercise their right to vote and then complain that democracy is failing in the United States. This includes many among those who benefit from government entitlements prescribed and promoted from the Left.

And can we stop with the meaningless analogies to Great Depression/World War II era European dictators. An American who disagrees with 21st century style liberalism is not a Fascist and not a Nazi. Neither Fascism nor Nazism were "conservative" economic, social, or political philosophies. In fact, each was radical and rooted in left-wing political and social and economic thinking---no matter how combined with some perverted sense of patriotism, nationalism, and futurism/modernism.

Eli Moore on August 04, 2013:


I called you a fascist because you seem to be so angry about the "lazy" people in society. You seem to want them regimented and disciplined to "work hard in life."

At the same time you ignore the fact that the business community controls both political parties and that the vast majority of the population has no say whatsoever in policy.

You seem to think that the left-wing business party is even too much because in history "[t]he voters figured out they could vote themselves money."

So despite the fact that there is hardly any democracy in the United States, you think that there is too much democracy because one wing of the business party actually pays attention to some people outside the business community in a limited way by, for example, not allowing them to starve.

At the same time you express this religious idea about what America is supposed to be, for example, about "God."

Put those all together and you are actually not too far off from, say, Mussolini -- who the US business community and the State Department actually praised in the 1930s because of the great job he did and disciplining and regimenting Italian society and those lazy workers and disruptive unions and community organizations.

He did a great job in Italy, created an environment highly conducive to business investment.

Clayton Hartford from Alger WA on August 04, 2013:

That was a quote towards me from Eli no towards you. As far as the terms of use, it is not against any rules to call. someone out and ask questions, then every other hub is in violation.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on August 04, 2013:

Well aren't you a vindictive one. You can call me a fascist for deleting your comment if you like. I have already said that is fine. There's nothing wrong with a bit of hostile discussion, but I don't think your reply to Eli even followed the Hubpages Terms of Use, which is why I deleted it. What I said was I can recognise trolling when I see it. Whether you are one or not is anyone's guess.

Clayton Hartford from Alger WA on August 04, 2013:

I also have reported this hub as you 1. called me a troll and 2 you did not remove Eli's offensive post but removed mine. So good day

Clayton Hartford from Alger WA on August 04, 2013:

Then please delete his comment that called me a fascist: Why should they have to listen to fascists like you telling them they are lazy and should go out and work and pay their fair share so the ruling strata of society can take their money, give it to corporations via contracts, and then only offer low-waged slave jobs or jobs as mercenaries to their sons and daughters?" If you don't like comebacks n please remove what caused the problem in the first place...and you may remove this comment as well.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on August 04, 2013:

Thanks for commenting d.william. I don't see a reason not to consider voters as representative of the population as a whole. It's a pretty good sample if you ask me! I agree that there is a societal trend towards the left on social issues. There can be a societal trend at the same time as an age based trend. Young voters are coming through all the time to replace the voters who die, so I'm not implying that society as a whole is moving to the right, and like I've said, these are trends/estimations that are not set in stone. The quote seems pretty clear to me. I'm not really sure what else it can mean.

bn9900, I deleted that reply to Eli for being overly personal and because it asked for personal information. You can call each other fascists or liberal pansies as much as you like, but I can recognise trolling when I see it e.g. "Eli is mad" and "People like Eli"... I mean come on; just act your age and be civil. I delete personal comments like that to me, so I might as well give others the same benefit.

d.william from Somewhere in the south on August 04, 2013:

Great thought provoking article. Just a couple of observations and comments of little relevance to anyone.

A/the results of the 2012 elections show only the political views of those voting - their views on social issues are mostly just the opposite.

B/It is impossible to make a blanket statement on the actual beliefs of people moving toward the right when we see society (state by state) embracing the concept of "equality" for everyone by "voting" for basic human rights in the only direction they can go (referring to same sex marriages).

C/Interpretations of things in general are individual, not necessarily societal - for example your second paragraph '' in quotes'' has two different meanings depending on your perception of the last word in that quote. I, for one, prefer the more sultry meaning.

Eli Moore on August 04, 2013:


Can you explain what you want these "people who are forcing the people who pay for the free stuff" to do when the "people who pay for the free stuff" are effectively infringing their right to democratic representation with "our" (their) two-business-party dictatorship?

What you said is just fuming with the smell of quasi-fascist propaganda about some kind of pre-industrialist America where 50% of the citizens of this country were farmers and actually were independent and self-reliant and only shopped in local markets. My home used to be an apple farm in the early 20th century -- and that's in the North East near New York.

We don't live in that kind of society anymore. We live in an industrialist- and banker-run republic that has borderline fascist elements in it which sound like what you spout. 70% of the population of this country is effectively disenfranchised from the political process completely and have no effect on any policy.

Why should they have to listen to fascists like you telling them they are lazy and should go out and work and pay their fair share so the ruling strata of society can take their money, give it to corporations via contracts, and then only offer low-waged slave jobs or jobs as mercenaries to their sons and daughters?

Utterly delusional.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on August 04, 2013:

Wow bn9900, that's a rather black and white view of reality. Sometimes I wish it were that simple.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on August 04, 2013:

Marcus, I'm going to echo shamsalariyaf when I say that the "evidence" doesn't support you on this. In fact, the video near the end of the hub provides some of that evidence. "Right wing brains" typically have larger amygdalae, causing a greater degree of fear-based reasoning. The emotional responses of liberals are less to do with genuine emotion, and more to do with a kind of social duty that they believe they need to fulfill. I think you flatter yourself very well with your opinion though.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on August 04, 2013:

Thanks for commenting semitch. You're right, I didn't say that all young people aren't liberals, though it shouldn't really need to be said. They're not! The voter demographics I sourced show that around 40% of voters under 30 are republicans. I also mentioned towards the end that some people are predisposed to have a particular political position. I should also have mentioned that parental influence will be very important. If one's parents are Republicans, it's a good chance that those ideals will be passed on during development.

The article was about presenting a number of theories for why political positions often move to the right as people get older. It wasn't really about answering the question. I think it would be wrong of me to force a conclusion on people.

shamsAlAriyaf on August 03, 2013:

bn9900, true not all conservatives are religious, but we are talking in average terms, as it is the theme of this hub. "Believers" are called such because they base their thinking on a belief, not on reality or science. If you are a believer, good for you, but please don't talk about logic or science, as that is something not related to religion in any way.

Clayton Hartford from Alger WA on August 02, 2013:

Shams-very fitting name for spouting that liberal garbage, not all conservatives are religious, but most liberals can't see the truth if it smacked them in the face.

shamsAlAriyaf on August 02, 2013:

MarcuParicus, your statement "and in my experience the biggest difference between conservatives and liberals is the acceptance of reality. Liberals want what they want based emotionally and they cannot be swayed by evidence" may be true in politics and economics, but not in religion and thought. Conservatives are the ones who tend to base their outlook on life on emotion and belief in the unknown, things that many liberals don't accept. Religion and logic do not mix very well.

Clayton Hartford from Alger WA on August 02, 2013:

I honestly could not have said it better myself.

MarcusPorcius on August 02, 2013:

I guess I buck the trend since I've been conservative since I was fourteen. I clashed horribly with my 60s liberal hippy parents.

I also happen to be very science and logic oriented, and in my experience the biggest difference between conservatives and liberals is the acceptance of reality. Liberals want what they want based emotionally and they cannot be swayed by evidence. They want "something" done, regardless of actual effectiveness, because they "care" more than you do.

Conservatives react based on reality and ethics, seeming to liberals to simply not "care" because they will not promote policies that are ineffective or impractical but would appear to "do something" for the poor, minorities, etc.

The best example is the "war on poverty." Despite half a century of welfare programs (dozens of them, often duplicated) which have done absolutely nothing to create fewer poor and despite welfare reform actually working to get people off welfare and into work, liberals cannot stomach even a lesser increase in programs, calling such smaller increases "draconian cuts" and conservatives "mean-spirited" for suggesting them.

Clayton Hartford from Alger WA on August 02, 2013:

and GOP all are synonyms for each other like Left Wing, Democrats, and Liberals are synonyms.

Clayton Hartford from Alger WA on August 02, 2013:

Well the right-wing,conservative,Republican

mbuggieh on August 02, 2013:

Interesting points. What, after all, does "right wing" mean?

Does it mean conservative? Cautious?

Does moving away from liberalism and toward conservatism (if that is what right-wing means) evolve from one's having lived many years and witnessed many things and realizing, for example, that government interventionism does not work; that throwing good money after bad foes not work; that we are all at the end of the day responsible for the outcomes of our lives and that we cannot/should not expect government to make it all better?

semitch on August 02, 2013:

Older people are wiser (at times) and can be wealthier, but to lump all into one category is not looking at the big picture of society. Even though you add the part about "Not all old people are right-wing" after listing your points about your topic, you don't actually state: "All young people are not democrats/liberals."

Change CAN be good if done with much thought and remaining open-minded to various outcomes. However, order is good and if people don't understand the past and how it affects us today, then they are sadly mistaken about history. Did your topic question really get answered in your article?

I know plenty of old people still left, and young right people, but sadly like my aunt said "The days of probably seeing a right or Republican win an election are over, as people enjoy their free ride." No, that is not meant as a lack of compassion for poverty. Helping and truly helping all people with education and learning is different than just handing them money for survival.

Hard working folks have to pay the tab now for everyone, and I'm sure the rich may not mind contributing as much, if really helping people was also being taught. (no, I'm not wealthy, but middle-class striving to get there but not wanting to be reprimanded because I work hard. I will always continue to help others but education is key). *Maybe people need to gain confidence by working and helping society with their own talent and seeing what they can really accomplish.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on August 02, 2013:

Thanks for commenting mbuggieh. I spent a year living in Tennessee and got to travel around a bit. I agree that poor rural American voters do not represent a large enough or unified enough block of voters. It is sad whenever a group goes unrepresented.

mbuggieh on August 02, 2013:

I noticed, Thomas, that you are from Durham, England. Have you ever traveled to the US and witnessed rural poverty? Been to Appalachia? The rural areas of the Gulf Coast?

Urban poverty gets national attention---attention from the current president, the Congress, various social welfare agencies. Urban poor have assorted national, regional, and local advocates. Urban poor are well-connected to welfare and its assorted "entitlement" programs.

Sadly, rural poverty not only goes unrecognized, but unattended since rural American voters---particularly the poor, do not represent a large enough or unified enough block of voters to have any meaning to politicians seeking elected office.

In the US voting blocks determine elections. In the US winning elections depends on winning a majority of votes. That means that urban areas with their large populations control the outcomes of elections. That also means that those living in urban areas are pandered to by elected officials.

The result: All the focus and effort in the US is on urban poverty. So much so that the extent of urban poverty is greatly exaggerated and receives exceptional "entitlement" program dollars while America's rural poor---who tend to be conservative/Republican voters, but who are neither a voting block nor represented by strong national advocacy groups, are hung out to dry ignored and impoverished.

Clayton Hartford from Alger WA on August 01, 2013:

That's why its "average"

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on August 01, 2013:

Absolutely, but like I said, the rich-poor divide in the cities is enormous (your source gives average income) and the cost of living in urban areas tends to be much higher.

mbuggieh on August 01, 2013:

Actually, the poorest places in the US are in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Alaska among other generally rural states. Here is a link to deatils:

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on August 01, 2013:

mbuggieh, I agree that there are many demographic predictors of voting preference, including geography and age. I don't agree with the contention that city-dwellers are usually better off than rural people. While cities are wealth centers, that wealth in concentrated within the hands of a small percentage of the population. Inner city areas are probably the poorest in the US, and it's likely that the majority of city dwellers are poorer than those who live in the countryside. Additionally, it's not just wealth, it's cost of living that has to be considered (e.g. rent, food, taxes, energy bills, etc).

mbuggieh on August 01, 2013:

And again, geography matters.

Income is not a determining factor in US politics. Most rural people---where incomes are significantly lower than those of urban people and where many lives near/at/below the poverty level are also decidedly "red" (Republican/conservative) areas.

The fact is that urban people---regardless of income, tend to be "blue" (Democrat/liberal) in the US.

mbuggieh on August 01, 2013:

As noted in an earlier comment: The primary demographic informing politics in the US is geography---not only national, but regional geography. The so-called "red" (Republican/conservative) and "blue" (Democrat/liberal) divide is a function of where one lives not only in terms of the state in which one lives, but also in terms of the location within a state in which one lives.

The east and west coasts of the US and New England tend to be more "blue", but the rural regions within those states are decidedly "red".

New York, for example, is a "blue" state IF New York City is included, but outside of NYC the state is decidedly "red".

In terms of age, the divide is not "red" or "blue", but a function of position of specific social issues---particularly among them same-sex marriage and climate change.

Clayton Hartford from Alger WA on July 31, 2013:

Eli- Actually I got my information from my family in the UK so your babble about "TV, radio, politicians, etc., and even newspapers (you have to look at diverse sources)"...just discounted anything else you babbled on about.

Eli Moore on July 31, 2013:


"As far as the NHS goes it was started in 1948 when there were lot less people in the UK, and they built up a fund for now, whereas the US doesn't have that luxury."

Sir, I really do hope that you hit the books and stop getting your information through propaganda mediums -- TV, radio, politicians, etc., and even newspapers (you have to look at diverse sources).

The United States is a corporate welfare state that has been heading down a path of glorifying corporations as venerable "individuals" while the rest of the population (basically 80% of it) are considered "special interests" or "lazy whiners" and "socialists."

Did you know that the United States gives more Federal aid to Colombia than it does to the city of Detroit?

Did you know that the Unites States actually spends more on health care per capita than any modern state in the entire world?

I went to get a little dot on my foot removed by a podiatrist. It was a low tech operation, required only a shot in the foot, some rubbing alcohol, a knife, and some stitches. The guy did it in 20 minutes. That simple procedure cost $3000. What kind of B.S. is that?

The only thing the US can't afford is our corporate healthcare system.

You seriously think that just because a poor person would get treated when they are on the verge of death that that is somehow "good enough"?

Maybe that poor person didn't have thousands of dollars to get cancer treatment before it got so bad that they were dying? Did you ever think of that?

No other country in the developed world neglects their citizens like that. None.

Perhaps they don't all have the latest, most technologically advanced healthcare that the US does, but their costs are actually MANY times cheaper and more effective.

European countries blow America out of the water when it comes to life expectancy. Americans have the life expectancy of like Colombia.

And speaking of that high technology that the US health care system has. That wouldn't be possible without corporate welfare. The Internet was developed on government welfare. The Cold War (ironically) was a huge period of government welfare (for high tech industry).

And if you go to any research university in this country (private or public), any medical school, I BET YOU that that research institute is getting millions of dollars of government welfare.

If you cut foreign welfare to on region of the world that is in US corporate interests you could pay for every America's healthcare.

Clayton Hartford from Alger WA on July 31, 2013:

Welcome- its not about denying the "poor" the healthcare. You can go to any hospital ER and they are required to help you even if you can not pay. As far as the NHS goes it was started in 1948 when there were lot less people in the UK, and they built up a fund for now, whereas the US doesn't have that luxury.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on July 31, 2013:

bn9900, I don't think half the population want someone else to pay for everything. Many people believe in a progressive tax system where the rich pay more; simply because they're able to while maintaining a comfortable way of life. On Obamacare, some things are worth paying for. Living in the UK means living with the NHS, and that can make anyone lenient towards socialized healthcare. I realize that anything "socialist" is political anathema in the US, which is a shame, because the NHS is loved by the majority in the UK. Cold War propaganda shouldn't be a reason to deny the US population something similar. Of course I could be wrong, that's just how I see it. Thanks for your opinion too.

Clayton Hartford from Alger WA on July 31, 2013:

Thomas-That's true, but on the flip side it could be parents not teaching the kids the value of the dollar (or pound). I bet if parents taught their kids that they have to work hard in life and not skate by, they may be in a better position to make decisions. Also there is a disturbing trend going on here where about half of the US population believe someone else should pay for everything, that is how the Democrats are getting away with "murder" here. Hard to save money when you are paying for things that the lazy bum should pay for. My wife is from the UK as well so I've had this type of conversation with her on many occasions, and she doesn't believe that Obamacare will raise healthcare costs.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on July 30, 2013:

Thanks for the comment ziyena!

ziyena from the Somewhere Out There on July 30, 2013:

From my own personal experience, I believe there may be some truth here ... just sayin

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on July 30, 2013:

Thanks for commenting bn9900. Perhaps teenagers don't plan ahead or care, but 18-29 year olds have to make a lot of big decisions about their futures with little to no experience in dealing with that pressure. They're at the foot of the mountain with no map and no money!

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on July 30, 2013:

Thanks for the comments ShamsAlAriyaf and Ilona1. It would be worth creating a social-psychology questionnaire to see how age affects levels of social/economic/political conservatism. That would probably be the way to test it. In elections we only see what party people voted for, so we can only get a general idea, i.e. right or left depending on how right or left the party is. There probably have been a few studies that have tested age against specific political or social views though.

Ilona1, I agree that it would be wrong to stereotype old (or young) people on the basis of the trends/commonalities spoken about in this hub. I hope I didn't give that impression. The statistics I gave showed 60/40 Dems/Reps in the lowest age categories, so there are still tens of millions of young Republicans in America!

Clayton Hartford from Alger WA on July 30, 2013:

Young people don't look into the future, they don't care. Only when they realize that they will have no money to live on in retirement will they realize they have to change their thinking.

Ilona from Ohio on July 30, 2013:

If you live here in the States, the general division between conservative or right wing ( as labeled Republican) and left wing or liberal ( as labeled Democratic) divided more along territory as in counties or even states ( blue and red states). Also, exit polls are necessarily simply samplings and it would depend on how representative a sampling was taken to get any real data to make large scale assumptions.

Maybe it was an election when most younger people went Democrat, that is certainly possible, but what about a few decades ago when there were the "Young Republicans" and a rise in the conservative and right wing views in a younger generation?

I also agree with shamsAlAriyaf- there are a number of ways to dice liberal/conservative and there are many people who vote issues instead of party, etc.

I always think that it is worthwhile to follow through on thinking out the arguments on an idea. And perhaps it is a bit of a problem with the semantics... the connotation of "right wing" isn't the same as conservative.

Your topic was interesting to think about, but I don't think it is quite fair to stereotype seniors as stultified and set in their ways. I also think that it isn't either fair or true to broadly paint a political persuasion ( suspecting that this may underlay the present polarity). So I promise I won't beat a dead horse, but just wanted to set out a differing opinion to consider. Thanks :) You've been quite civil.

shamsAlAriyaf on July 28, 2013:

I agree with your article. I would only segment this further by considering social conservatism versus political conservatism versus economic conservatism, etc, as I think that makes a difference. For instance, I know people who are socially conservative, yet politically liberal. etc.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on July 28, 2013:

Cheers Pamela! Thanks for commenting.

Pamela Mae Oliver from Georgia on July 28, 2013:

I really enjoyed this article! I have had the same observations in my experience with people on both sides of the fence.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on July 28, 2013:

Thanks Sanxuary. You make a good point. I agree that argument can often strengthen the resolve of both involved, making genuine thought impossible. However, sometimes there is little point in offering someone your genuine thoughts, such as when the other person has shown they have no intention of taking those thoughts seriously. So I'd say there's a fine line between getting defensive, and feeling someone is just not worth it.

Sanxuary on July 28, 2013:

I think most people have made up their mind at a certain age and seldom use thought in determining there choices. Instead of reason they would rather argue to protect their opinion. When you do get them to think it becomes a completely different conversation. It happens all the time on Hub pages.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on July 27, 2013:

Thanks for commenting Ilona1. Here's some extra detail on one of the examples I cited in the hub:

US 2012 presidential election. Exit polls for the two major parties:

18-24 year olds: 60% Dem, 36% Rep.

25-29 year olds: 60% Dem, 38% Rep.

30-39 year olds: 55% Dem, 42% Rep.

40-49 year olds: 48% Dem, 50% Rep.

50-64 year olds: 47% Dem, 52% Rep.

65+ year olds: 44% Dem, 56% Rep.

It's a pretty striking trend, I hope you'll agree.

Ilona from Ohio on July 26, 2013:

I don't think that there are simply a few people who "buck the trend", I think the premise is wrong.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on July 25, 2013:

Cheers for the comment Mel. You're right that there's not a lot for moderates. It's also a shame that there's only two choices in the US. It would be great if there were more independent candidates, or smaller parties. I think the political system and media is set up to never let that happen though.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on July 24, 2013:

I get so fed up from all of the dogma from both the left and the right that now I am middle of the road, and I try to make up my own mind. The problem is that there is not a lot out there for moderates, so we have to choose what we think is the lesser of two evils. Nice analysis!

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on July 24, 2013:

Thanks for commenting Ilona1. Yes, there will always be people who buck the trend.

Ilona from Ohio on July 24, 2013:

I don't think age has anything to do with it. In my family it is the reverse: the older they are the more left, and politically liberal they become.

Pessimism is also not age related, plenty of very young people are quite pessimistic and cynical. If you are polling the people leaving voting booths you won't get a sample of the most pessimistic... they are simply not going to vote at all ( if pessimistic enough).

I think the whole premise is skewed when trying to tie some of these traits to age.

Mklow1 on July 24, 2013:

Just making a joke.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on July 24, 2013:

It's a trend, a majority, not "everyone".

Mklow1 on July 24, 2013:

I think to say that how much money people have makes them support a political party that will allow them to keep it is a bit presumptuous because if that were the case then everyone in Hollywood would become Republicans instead of democrats! lol

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on July 24, 2013:

Thanks for the comments Angie, mbuggieh, and Mklow1. Did someone say something against baby boomers? We seem to have gone a bit off track. There's nothing wrong with people having money if they worked for it. The suggestion is that wealth causes people to support the political party that allows them to keep that wealth to the greatest degree. As older people typically have more wealth (and there's nothing wrong with that!) then they are more likely to be right wing.

mbuggieh, my point is that "wise" is a complimentary word. If wisdom helps someone to become right wing, it implies that being right-wing is a good thing. It may be, but it would be very presumptuous to assume it is.

Mklow1 on July 24, 2013:


I would have to agree for the unfair label of the baby boomers. My parents made very modest incomes (and when I say modest, I mean that my first job out of college, I made $10k more a year than their salaries combined.) yet they were able to raise 4 children (7 1/2 years between the oldest and youngest) that all went on to have advanced degrees.

They did it by not spending money on things that didn't matter and I mean anything that didn't matter. We never never never went out to eat. Our groceries were the bare minimum, which meant no sodas, chips, or cookies (we got those on vacation!). They also did not believe in taking out credit on anything other than a house and maybe on a vehicle. We wore hand me downs from anyone and everyone (unfortunately the child just above me was my sister). We lived in the same house (which my parents still live in today) and we kept the same car for as long as it would last (they seem to average 10 years). Luckily my Dad is a fantastic handyman and could do anything around the house, which he passed on to us.

At an age when most people are retired, my Dad is still working and finally earning what he deserves, so when someone tells him it is the wealthy's responsibility to take care of the poor, he would giving them an opportunity to work.

Ironically my sister is the only child that is a democrat and she also believes that it is the wealthy's responsibility to take care of the poor. She is in debt up to her eyeballs and frequently borrows money from my father (and when I say borrow, I mean take the money and never pay it back! lol).

mbuggieh on July 24, 2013:

And as for "wisdom" implying some qualitative measure of "better":

Wisdom is (if Wikipedia is to be believed) a "deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgments and actions in keeping with this understanding. It often requires control of one's emotional reactions (the "passions") so that universal principles, reason and knowledge prevail to determine one's actions. Wisdom is also the comprehension of what is true coupled with optimum judgement as to action. Synonyms include: sagacity, discernment, or insight."

It's not about better. It is about different and about what can be learned and known only after years and years of living.

mbuggieh on July 24, 2013:

I too am a Baby Boomer---and a bit tired of the current trend of the perennial blame game which now blames Baby Boomers not only for aging, but for having worked hard, paid our taxes, and achieved something of the dream of the post-World War II world.

Some people are wealthy; some people are not.

The average Baby Boomer is not wealthy, but retired or approaching retirement and wondering what his or her last years will witness.

And, when you look around and see Baby Boomers in power (though Warren Buffett born in 1930 is decidedly NOT a Baby Boomer as we were born between about 1945 and about 1960) perhaps you are seeing the results of hard work and not some ethereal and ephemeral privilege of having been born during some given time.

Angie Jardine from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ... on July 24, 2013:

I wonder what they will call the next generation of well-off older people, Thomas, once us baby-boomers have died, don’t you?

I’m afraid I get a bit sick of such a label being used as a sweeping generalisation of wealth. Some people are just wealthy and always will be, it happens.

And, just for the record I am a Brit baby-boomer, I have worked and paid taxes all my life, I live on an income well below the poverty level although I don’t feel poor. I am grateful for my pension … and, as I still consider myself working class, I am still a staunch Labour supporter (That’s left-wing for any Americans reading).

I will (I hope) always believe that the vulnerable in our societies should be helped and taken care of even if that means higher taxes for the rich.

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on July 24, 2013:

Thank you noorin for commenting, voting and following!

Thomas Swan (author) from New Zealand on July 24, 2013:

Thanks for the comment Eli. I agree that the wealth of the older generations has a lot to do with it. It's a shame that the next generation in the driving seat will probably be just as politically lop-sided.

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