Age and Political Persuasion


Donovan Goodwin

Students are having a political discussion.

Donovan Goodwin, Reporter

A young man walks up to an older man who works in a fabrication shop. The young man asks why the older man believes what he does. He said that in the many years he’s worked he has figured out that you can’t get something for nothing and that it all comes from someone. The young man replies that he understands but that means that he will have to pay for education and that he still deserves an education and that school, for example, should be free. But how does this story relate to politics?

To some, free education is a must and a right. But to others, the notion of free anything is unobtainium and simply cannot work financially, represented by age in the story.  Age has been a long-standing political stereotype, one that has roots in empirical data and a little in fiction.

“I feel like nowadays conservatism is rare to find in the high school setting,” said Boston Olson (Real Name Withheld). “If you’re a teenager you’re kind of automatically supposed to be a liberal, which is sad.”

45% of 18 to 29-year-olds are considered left of center, whereas 55% of 65 and older consider themselves right of center, according to PEW Research Center. This means that the older they get the more conservative they get. Why is this so?

“Many have argued that younger generations are more socially liberal. This is partially because younger generations are more likely to have been to university (about 35% of 30-year-olds have a degree, compared with 10% of 70-year-olds) and higher education tends to make people more socially liberal on issues like crime and immigration,” according to The Conversation’s Hard Evidence: do we become more conservative with age?

Why would going to university change one’s political views?

Matthew Ekker, student at Itineris High School, said, “Young people starting out typically don’t have a lot of income, but have lots of expenses (college, buying your first home, etc.) and because of the political philosophies that advocate income redistribution, find a receptive audience with many[students attending University]. Who wouldn’t want free college, free healthcare, guaranteed minimum income when you are receiving many more benefits than costs? However, as individuals start to climb the socioeconomic ladder, and start making enough that they are expected to pay for some of these ’free’ benefits, then they are much less likely to embrace those philosophies.”

Perhaps the answer might be found through the lens of psychology.

“The first reason is personality. Indeed, a review of 92 scientific studies shows that intellectual curiosity tends to decline in old age, and that this decline explains age-related increases in conservatism,” according to Psychology Today’s Why Are Older People More Conservative?. The article went on to indicate there is even more evidence to suggest that creativity and ‘openness’ are good indicators of political persuasion. And openness is typically peaking around your 20’s. Thus scientifically quantifying the political divide a little better.

Looking at the many factors considered, it has much less to do with the ‘party lines’ and more to do with how personality and responsibility changes as this generation gets older.