Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Older We Get, The More Liberal We Become?

"Busting Myth, People Turn More Liberal With Age," an article by Clara Moskowitz at, seems to put an age-old myth to rest: that the older we get, the more Conservative we become, although older voters were 16% of all voters in 2012, and they supported Romney decisively (56%)...From Livescience, in 2008:

"The stereotype of a cranky old man, set in his ways, getting more conservative by the day, is an enduring one. But new research has made us rethink the myth that people become more conservative as they age.

"By comparing surveys of various age groups taken over a span of more than 30 years, sociologists found that in general, Americans' opinions veer toward the liberal as they grow older.

"All the evidence we have found refutes the idea that as people age their attitudes become more conservative or more rigid," said Nicholas Danigelis, a sociologist at the University of Vermont. "It's just not true. More people are changing in a liberal direction than in a conservative direction."

"Detailed study

"Danigelis and collaborators Stephen Cutler of the University of Vermont and Melissa Hardy of Pennsylvania State University analyzed data from the U.S. General Social Surveys of 46,510 Americans between 1972 and 2004. While the surveys did not provide data for the same individuals at different stages, they represented snapshots of the changing attitudes of respondents in different age cohorts over time. The researchers corrected for the fact that the age groups at different survey times are made of up new members with unique baseline opinions.
"In some cases, such as racial issues and questions of civil liberties for communists, the researchers measured a greater change toward liberalism in older people than in younger people."
"The surveys assessed attitudes on politics, economics, race, gender, religion and sexuality issues. In some cases, such as racial issues and questions of civil liberties for communists, the researchers measured a greater change toward liberalism in older people than in younger people.

"'What we believe has happened, at least for the race relations, is that the older group, starting out at a position of significantly more negative feelings, had further to go,' Danigelis told LiveScience.

"If people really become more liberal as they age, why does common wisdom hold the opposite to be true?

"People might find an average 60-year-old to be more conservative than an average 30-year-old, Danigelis said, but beware of extrapolating a trend. The older person, for example, might have started off even more conservative than he or she is now.

"Danigelis also blamed the misconception on pervasive negative attitudes toward the elderly in our country, and stereotypes that depict seniors as rigid, ornery and set in their ways.

"'If you look at any greeting cards about getting older you’ve got a wonderful lecture about age stereotypes,' he said. 'My colleague continues to cut out cartoons about getting old and trying to teach old dogs new tricks.'

"Election impact

"Danigelis said politicians and pundits should try to steer clear of stereotypes in the upcoming election.

"'The assumption that older voters are stuck their ways of thinking or are likely to go with a conservative candidate and are not open to new information — I think there's a lot of information to suggest that that’s not going to happen,' he said.

"He urged people to judge John McCain, the 71-year-old Republican nominee for president, on his politics rather than his age.

"'Age will be an issue in the campaign, as will race and gender, which is unfortunate,' Danigelis said. 'Maybe this is the campaign to knock down a bunch of stereotypes.'

"The study was published in the October 2007 issue of the journal American Sociological Review.

"In the future, the researchers hope to investigate whether similar trends occur in other cultures and societies.

"'There are international surveys that might allow you to do a similar study,' Danigelis said.  'Our gut feeling is yes but we haven’t tested that and we hope to.'"

We suspect that the study may have been too simplistic, ignoring the strategies of race-baiting and fear-mongering that are such an integral part of analyzing the demographics of the older voters.

The Election of 2008 might have been an "I told you so" moment for these researchers.  While significant shifts in the voting electorate toward non-white and younger voters occurred in the 2008 election, the anecdotal evidence of millions of younger people urging their parents and grandparents to vote for Barack Obama was one of the most interesting phenomenons of the Election.  According to an analysis of White Seniors and the 2008 Election, the results were mixed:

"But his performance among seniors (age 65 and over) provided one of the few lower points, as exit polls show that Obama lost to John McCain among seniors 45 to 53 percent. According to the exit polls, while Obama made gains with nearly all groups compared to John Kerry, this did not happen with seniors.

"They, along with gay and lesbian voters, were the big underperformers for Obama. Among seniors overall, there was no real change from 2004 to 2008. And among white seniors, Obama lost significant ground, even while he made gains among the white electorate as a whole. 
"Democrats actually made slight gains with this group in this year’s Congressional vote. After losing them by 12 points in 2004, Democratic congressional candidates narrowed the gap with white seniors to 9 points in 2008."
"Obama’s struggle among white seniors appears to be more directly tied to his candidacy than to a shift within the white senior electorate. Though Democratic presidential candidates have performed steadily worse with white seniors since 1996, Democrats actually made slight gains with this group in this year’s Congressional vote. After losing them by 12 points in 2004, Democratic congressional candidates narrowed the gap with white seniors to 9 points in 2008, according to National Election Pool exit surveys."

The "problem" may not be a problem as among some Republicans have realized that the Party's base will be hobbled in national elections if it becomes too old, too rural and too white. "What worries me is that the GOP is about to become the WOP—the White Old Party," said Norm Coleman, a former Minnesota senator.

Does it even matter?  According to a post-election analysis of the 2012 Election by Associated Press, "Among voters under 30 years old this year, only 58 percent are white. Among senior voters, 87 percent are white."

We have doubts about the premise that the older we get, the more liberal we become.  But again: Does it really matter in the long run when we look at the changing demographics of the voters?  One thing we can bet on -- the Conservatives will use race baiting as a campaign strategy to keep the older white voters in line, they will lie about the solvency of Social Security and the "socialist" Affordable Health Care Act, and they will continue to rob seniors of their vote where the demographics point to Democratic senior voters like Washington D. C..  And without the white Conservative votes, they will disappear into the trashbin of history.


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