Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

Do people tend to become more conservative as they age? If so, why?

Asked by wundayatta (58349 points ) February 25th, 2010

It seems like there are a lot of people who start off liberal as youths, and then turn into right wingers when they get older. It’s an annoying trend, to me, and yet, I find it in myself, too. I mean, I wouldn’t call myself a socialist any more. Just a liberal. I’m also not a big supporter of using price controls as a mechanism to fight excess profits any more.

What do you think? How have your political/social views changed as you have aged?

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57 Answers

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

I really don’t think so. I’ve heard this said a lot, but hard lefty youngsters are pretty much always hard lefty seniors, and vice versa. I think there’s some movement by people in the middle, but I think it’s erratic and in both directions.

Just_Justine's avatar

You ask such great questions, so I seem to be always answering them!! I think it was the other way around for me. I was a prude, shy conservative, up tight person. Until I turned around 36! I really am growing old disgracefully.

janbb's avatar

If anything, I’ve gotten more leftwing but I would say my political philosophy and orientation has stayed fairly consistent throughout my life.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

@wundayatta Are you saying people get dumber as they age? ;p

aprilsimnel's avatar

I’ve probably become more leftward as I’ve aged, politically anyway.

wilma's avatar

I was much more liberal when I was a youngin’.
When I started paying taxes, lots of taxes, and saw how many other people, get away with paying hardly any.
My views shifted.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@Just_Justine I’m with you on that! I’ve gotten more loosey-goosey on things as I get older. Ahhh. Age is freeing.

TexasDude's avatar

I’m going to reuse one of my older answers to answer this question because it fits… here ya go:

Personally, I’ve found myself all over the spectrum, but that’s because I’ve always told myself to remain flexible and open to new ideas, and I think my beliefs have matured because of it. When I was much younger (and still a Christian) I was a hardline conservative Republican (before I knew what that meant). Then, by highschool, I took a hard turn to the left and was about as left wing as left wing gets. I made the socialists look like Barry Goldwater, by comparison. Then, my beliefs continued to evolve and mature into what I perceive as a healthy, label-less balance. I hold many beliefs typical of liberals, and many typical of conservatives. I’m pro gun ownership, pro gay rights, pro choice, pro capitalism, pro military (but anti-war), pro women’s rights, and mostly secular, but I’m not going to harp on anyone’s religious beliefs.

Building on this, my problem with most of the players on the left and right is that most of them are much too authoritarian. The right is unfortunately dominated by anti-women theocrats who would love to peek in our bedrooms, while the left is filled with folks who try much too hard to create an impossible to achieve utopian society that disregards facts about human nature.

Your mileage may vary.

end quote…

So I guess you could say I’ve gotten more conservative as I’ve grown up, but more in the libertarian (little l) sense than the theocratic sense.

Val123's avatar

I don’t know. More cautious, maybe. Less certain that their views and opinions are 100% correct (that is, if they gain wisdom and humility as they get older.)

nikipedia's avatar

So far I’ve had kind of the opposite experience. I became pretty conservative in college, convinced that my hard work alone was responsible for whatever success I had achieved in life. I thought social welfare let people get soft and that the free market would take care of itself.

Now that I’m a little older, I consider that perspective ridiculously naive and offensively stupid.

mollypop51797's avatar

I think it depends on which age you’re talking about. When people hit their 50s or 60s they will probably become more conservative than before, but they’ll always have the “kid” in them. however, I guess you could also call it maturing. When I was in my late 20s and early 30s, I definitely had more spunk and “energy”. When I say “energy” I mean, that vibrant shock in your personality. But now, I’ve just learned from mistakes, and become well experienced. But hey, have you ever heard the saying “I’m not old, I’m just a recycled teenager”.

Val123's avatar

Also, become less willing to take risks.

tinyfaery's avatar

On the contrary, my wife’s parents have become increasingly liberal simply by their exposure to the ideas of their children. They even voted for Obama, something they would never have considered even 9 years ago (when I first met them).

I think the willingness to be open to new ideas and situations countereffects the rigid stance most conservatives hold.

Myself, I just keep getting more and more progressive as I age.

josie's avatar

Experience proves to most people that they are capable of living their lives, raising children, achieving happiness etc. without a lot of government interference. At that point, government becomes an expensive burden.

Bluefreedom's avatar

I’ve become much more jaded in my views toward politics the older I’ve gotten.

Anon_Jihad's avatar

I started off militantly right wing, now I’m sort of on a different chart and I hate liberals and conservatives. But definitely liberals by a hell of a lot more, if not double conservatives. So maybe?

casheroo's avatar

I don’t think so. It’s different for everyone.

In some aspects, I’m more conservative..but I’ll always have many extreme liberal views (when it comes to welfare).
My parents have always been liberals. They have some conservative views that I do not share, mainly when it comes to immigration. But, otherwise, they have risen up from being poverty level…and it’s funny, my husband and I joke that they’re starting to make enough money to be Republicans because they get screwed when it comes to tax time. But, they’ll always feel that you should help others who need it.
I will never forget where I came from, and for me, being liberal is part of it.

laureth's avatar

When you’re young, you think that if you could just smash your head against that brick wall enough times, it will come tumbling down.

When you get older, you see all those head-dents in the wall made by people before you and notice that all you got was a headache.

Besides, there are people behind you that noticed you stopped bashing your head into the wall and are calling you “establishment” and want you to get out of the way so they can bash their heads. They’re pretty sure that if they bash it hard enough, it’ll all come down.

It’s entertaining to watch them try so hard, so I move aside and let them, while I’m taking some aspirin out. They’re going to need it one day.

Bronny's avatar

I feel that I have actually become more liberal with age. I think it depends on the environment, especially the work place. If someone works in an atmosphere where they are constantly faced with reality and the ever growing changing world and how it interacts within itself and it’s different geopolitical sectors, the person most likely will be more open to other less significant changes and ways of thinking within their own inner society.

However if your daily hustle and bustle consists of the same things day by day, and you are allowed to become comfortable with a routine where nothing changes and no one challenges set rules and boundaries, it is easy to assume that the person who is happy in this realm of living will be more reluctant to accept change.

Small town mentality vs big city life.

lonelydragon's avatar

I read a psychological study to that effect years ago, but I don’t remembe reading any interpretation of the statistical data (i.e. why people grew more conservative as they aged). But if I had to present a theory, I’d hypothesize that people become more conservative because they are trying to integrate into adult society. Socioeconomic class may also play a role. Young people generally do not have a lot of money, so they’d be more likely to identify with the underdog and support social reforms that would help them rise to the top. But as they age and achieve upward mobility, they want to conserve the status quo so that they can keep their wealth. Just my two cents.

ChaosCross's avatar

I would say so, the older you get and the more you see things pass the more you realize how precious “conserving things” really are.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I don’t the shift is in any direction, really – as some of us mature, we gain more perspective, we look forward to the future – others begin to have more fears, look for answers in conservatism, fine…that’s all good…people are different.

Judi's avatar

It seems that the more you have to loose the more conservative you become. (Well, not me, but a lot of people.)

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Psst…........Common sense through life experience

mattbrowne's avatar

On average, perhaps, yes. But there are many counterexamples. Heiner Geissler, a famous conservative German politician joined Attac and is now a well-known critic of turbo capitalism. Although he’s still part of the CDU he shares many views with the social democrats and the green party.

Cruiser's avatar

It all comes down to standing up for what you believe in and protecting your hard earned whatever. When you are young and restless you have very little to lose. As you age, work hard, earn and learn…things do change you have much more invested into the way your life is run and what is important to you changes. If that means the color of your voting card changes, so be it. It is just how it goes…nothing to be made a big deal out of and is all part of life in a country that is run by political POV’s.

davidk's avatar

The term “conservative” is so equivocal that it is practically useless as a basis for any intelligent conversation. Those above who have argued that increased responsibility brings on more conservative thinking have a point that is predicated upon a conflation of the term. For example, political conservatives typically aren’t big union/labor supporters. However, union/labor is inherently “conservative” in the sense that industries that would tend to die out or fail are often propped up by concerns for preserving the status quo in jobs, professions and guilds—i.e. to keep things the way they have been. This type of thinking has led many to conclude that certain institutions/industries are “too big to fail.”

Was it politically conservative thinking that led to the public subsidizing of various industries in order to preserve, protect and to keep down the prices of certain products and services in order to save a particular way of life? No. Government subsidies are “conservative” in essence.

Historically speaking, political conservatives have been label “conservatives” because of their tendency to be morally more traditional. Conservatives have used the power of the national, state and local legislatures to preserve moral traditions, or to at least slow down what they hold to be the “degeneration of society.”

This moral traditionalism is actually just one part of what we label politically “conservative” though. For example, the notion that the Constitution is a bulwark—a contract—designed to make certain that the Federal government is and remains limited is inherently a non-conservative notion. On the surface, it seems like those who are “Constitution Thumpers” are simply being preservationists. However, when one explores the motivations behind the “Constitution Thumpers” one finds that their attitude is based on the notion that government exists only as a preserver of natural rights and liberties. To them, that sort of Federal government—a limited Federal government—ideally would not be allowed to act in preservationist fashion. This is why many “conservatives” are very libertarian. This is why they tend to support more unfettered exchanges of goods and services—capitalism. They hold capitalism to be an essential extension of what Jefferson termed “the pursuit of happiness.” And since the pursuit of happiness is a pursuit (not a guarantee by thetgovernment of happiness) it is essentially risky—- hence, non-conservative/preservationist.

As a socialist, I’m convinced that the “left” and “right” know that the term “conservative” is purposefully vague…as are “liberal”, and even “progressive”. Why purposefully vague? Because they want to be able to manipulate the marshmallow center every election cycle.

As a socialist, I’m free to point out that there are aspects of socialism that are “conservative”—in all senses of the word.

CaptainHarley's avatar

No. I was much more conservative ( in the classical sense of politically conservative ) when I was younger.

evandad's avatar

People get tougher as they get older. Life teaches you lessons. If you mean politically then it may have something to do with the accumulation of wealth and wanting to keep it. I was lucky enough to remain poor and not have that temptation.

DrMC's avatar

Life experience teaches.

When I was young, conservative equalled identity with authority

Nerds, narcs, butt kissers.

Liberals were the pot smoking cool group.

Now that I am older, I see what was once liberal has changed to gag our mouths with political correctness.

I have to be professional. To think these liberals act like they didn’t once treat weed like a religion. Perhaps the whole purpose was to generate a lever to seperate the young from the old, and then sell them into slavery blindly worshipping progressivism instead of liberalism.

The liberals have failed, and now it’s the conservatives who are anti-establishment. Anti 1984. The independents have a leg up.

What has changed? Me?

I think the democratic party is no longer the high road it once was. Instead of speaking freedom from conservative oppression – it has become the prostitute to big industry (trial lawyers, Pharma, insurance). I was a staunch supporter of democracy, but what the democratic party sells is lies and 1984!

Suck it up if you like it. But not me.

laureth's avatar

Conservatives are the anti-1984 wing now? Boy oh boy, things have changed in the years since October 26, 2001.

DrMC's avatar

@laureth yes, that was a little after clinton. That for me is when things really started to change. It may have had something to do with selling health reform while being openly dishonest.

If I was his wife – I’da cut off his balls.

laureth's avatar

I suppose I’d rather have someone lie about getting their cigar smoked than lying to lead my country into war, but I suppose I’ve gotten more conservative as I aged. ;)

The_Idler's avatar

Because they want lower taxes, higher interest rates and no more money being spent on students, schools, arts, etc. because they dont give a shit about them anymore.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

@laureth I believe Mr Clinton moisten his cigar by way of Ms Lewinsky before he smoked it LOL LOL LOL

thriftymaid's avatar

It seems to me that young people are the idealists and thus subscribe to liberalism. As they go through middle life people often become more conservative. Then in later life a balance is found.

DrMC's avatar

@laureth I don’t think Bush lied as much as Obama, Bush was really that stupid unfortunately – you give him too much credit. I really loved the wailing and gnashing of teeth on Main stream misinformation networks after he won. How could such a republican win. Can you say “none of the above”?

I think Bush got suckered into Iraq through ignorant arrogance. I prefer that over Clinton. I’d be afraid to drop my soap in front of clinton.

the only good democrat is one not in office!

laureth's avatar

What’s Obama lied about? The Right often cries “Lie!” on him, but I always thought that was because the Left said it so often about Bush that they figure it’s just what you say about Presidents you don’t like.

DrMC's avatar

I’ll refer to the recent presidential adderss death panels, tort reform.

Excuse, I have to wash my hands after handling that shit.

Dont get me started.

Take of the party blinders please

DrMC's avatar

There, hands washed

I have developed an uwavering conviction as to the veracity of the methods employed by the democratic party. I’m not fond of the republican party support of industry – but in terms of ethics – the socialist propaganda is opiate for the masses in an unabashed grab for power at the expense of the nations freedoms.

Progressivism is dead. We need a new ism.

laureth's avatar

You’ve said “tort reform” and “death panels.” I know that “death panels” are Fox-News-speak for discussing end of life choices with your doctor and billing it to your insurance. However, while those are divisive issues, I’m not sure what lies you believe Obama is telling about them. Can you clarify?

DrMC's avatar

The discussion on end of life care was sanitized 3 days after the palinator made steam over that. Would have been better to leave it in as a time bomb IMHO.

Tort reform. – while he did say he had changed his mind and might consider reforming his second greatest contributor to his election campaign – these materialized as insulting programs to teach doctors how to apologize.

The issue regarding coverage of non-citizens, particularly the of the illegal ilk – was what triggered the “you lie” during the presidential speech. Personally I would have kept that bomb under my hat as well, alas the repubs get excitable.

Obama talks just like Clinton. Put him through a lie detector, but I’ll never believe a word said by a democrat. EVER. I used to be a democrat. NO more.

Ventura, Please come and deliver us!

laureth's avatar

“Sanitized” after Palin “made steam” could easily be seen as countering Palin’s spin on the matter.

Obama offered the Republicans the chance at writing the tort reform part, but they refused.

Neither the House nor the Senate health care bills offered illegals the chance at free health care. Because a Republican shouts out “you lie” doesn’t mean it is a lie.

You say, “I’ll never believe a word said by a democrat. EVER.” and then tell me to take off “party blinders” when I simply ask you to clarify where Obama has lied.

I can see that this conversation is clearly doomed. ;) Have a good night!

DrMC's avatar

@laureth glad you recognize my entrenchment. G’night.

The_Idler's avatar

It’s funny how you think the two parties are different, so.

The rest of the world laughs.

janbb's avatar

@The_Idler And do you laugh about your own country’s parties? Yes, they are different; maybe not in effectiveness, but in core policy. It’s easy to be glib when it’s not your fate that is at stake.

The_Idler's avatar

@janbb Yes.
One thousand times, Yes.

I vote Labour, but I can still laugh at their bullshit, and I laugh more at anyone who thinks New Labour have, in any way, been the saviours of the working classes:
a working class man, because that would be ridiculous;
a middle class man, because that would be pathetic;
an upper class man, because that would be typical.

I laugh every day, at the fact that Labour have not reversed any of the Thatcherite changes that are now making this country fall apart. They are no friend of the working man, they are the friend of big-business. It’s a kind of dry, almost sardonic humour.

Most of all, I laugh at anyone who cites dishonesty as a reason for not voting for any particular party. Occasionally there are honest politicians, but as a group, they all make their fortunes by ripping off the public and calling it a service.

I said, it’s funny how you think the two parties are different, so.
I was talking about accusations of dishonesty and spin.

In Britain, almost every Tory voter justifies their position with,
“I have lots of money and I don’t want it forcibly redistributed to others,”
and almost every Labour voter justifies their position with,
“I really don’t want the Tories to get in.”

There really is no loyalty or principles involved,
because everyone knows the parties have no loyalty or principles.

Anyone who believes that either of those parties is not comprised of the biggest bunch of bullshitters in the country, after the religious idiots, is considered to be… well, pretty fucking stupid.
Or a politician.

So yeah it’s pretty normal to laugh at this kind of behaviour in the UK.
Maybe it’s just the British sense of humour…

janbb's avatar

I’m familiar with the British sense of humor – what you’re talking about is cynicism. I don’t feel I have the luxury of being cynical yet, but I understand where you’re coming from and may be there myself in two years.

davidk's avatar

The confusion, unsubstantiated generalizations, ad hominem ‘arguments’ written above add up to an unintelligible cluster-fork; an unsalvageable gaggle that reinforces my prior, initial point.

Americans are obviously so divided that the very fundamentals and philosophic underpinnings of the Constitution have no bearing on the dialogue. This alone, is all the proof I need to conclude that the American paradigm has shifted to the tipping point.

The Constitution is no longer the ruler by which people measure the political spectrum in the US. It hasn’t been for a while. So now is the time for a new, clear-eyed social contract; one that is plain and simple; yet capable of codifying the entitlement, welfare and bailout mentality in such a way that it becomes productive instead of divisive.

Coloma's avatar

I am liberally liberal and conservatively conservative depending….but, oh yeah…am much younger now than I ever was when I was young.

It takes a lot of years to figure out it’s all a sham, so just enjoy yourself. No worries, be happy!

CaptainHarley's avatar

Yes, many people tend to drift right as they get older. It’s called wisdom. : )

The_Idler's avatar

Granted, there is wisdom in self-interest.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Drifting right does not equal “self-interest.”

The_Idler's avatar

Well there’s not much wisdom in drifting right, if it isn’t in ones interest!

Coloma's avatar

I think it’s ALL in the drift…we shift drifts a lot in a lifetime. lol

SecondHandStoke's avatar

It sometimes takes time for a person to realize that anything worth having is worth preserving.

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