August 7, 2013

Becoming More Conservative With Age?

An election sign in a residential property.
An election sign in a residential property. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It is commonly assumed that people become more politically conservative as they age. I have not looked into whether there are data to support this claim, but it would not surprise me if such data were available. The most common reasons I have heard offered for the presumed trend toward conservatism with age include increased wealth, increasing numbers of dependents (i.e., family), and a gradual shift of priorities from changing the system to protecting what one has.

Even if we assume that data show that there is a trend toward increasing conservatism with age, such data would apply to groups of people and not necessarily to any particular individual. There are always outliers, so we should expect that some people might actually become more liberal and others might not change at all. And that brings me to the questions I'm looking at here:
  1. Have I become more conservative with age?
  2. If so, why?
For me, it seems to be a mixed bag. There are some areas where I have become more conservative. There are also areas where I have become more liberal; however, I think there are probably fewer of those. And of course, there are plenty of areas where I haven't changed all that much. Overall, I'm not sure it would be accurate to say that I have become more conservative. If anything, I see myself as becoming increasingly fed up with the entire political system, less idealistic, and more discouraged with humanity. Perhaps I am confusing the net effect of these changes with becoming more conservative.

I suppose it would not make much sense if I were to become significantly more conservative with age. After all, I seem to be an exception to most of the explanations for why this trend is supposed to happen. The difference between what I earn now and what I earned 5 years ago (even 10 years ago) is minimal. Same for what I own now vs. then. I'm not any worse off than I was 10 years ago, but I'm really not any better off either. I have no dependents and no desire to see that change. That has been stable, so I don't see that being a factor. Overall, I don't have any more to protect today than I did 10 years ago. If anything, I have less to lose now than I did back then in the sense that I had less job security 10 years ago. Moreover, I think I may have more of an interest in seeing radical changes to the system today than would have been the case 10 years ago.

While I did not include it above, I have heard some people suggest that religion could be another factor. If people become more religious with age, perhaps this drives a shift toward greater conservatism. I can't say that I feel any closer to embracing religion today than I did 10 or 20 years ago. Actually, I'd have to say that the odds of me embracing religion now seem quite a bit lower than they did 20 years ago.

How about you? Do you feel like you have become more conservative with age?