Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Old People Vindicated as Not Necessarily Conservative

A heck of a report here:
Contrary to common belief, aging seems to make a person more liberal and tolerant, not more conservative or rigid, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Vermont and Pennsylvania State University found that people over the age of 60 become more liberal, more quickly as they age compared to younger people.

"We still hold these age stereotypes about older people becoming more rigid in their thinking or becoming more conservative," said Nick Danigelis, a professor of sociology in Vermont who headed the research team.

"It's a false stereotype, and in fact, the evidence suggests that older people in some cases appear to be moving at a more rapid rate towards a liberal position than younger people."

... At this point, I suppose, we're all meant to breathe a great sigh of relief. Because we all know what conservatism entails (apart from mere "rigidity," that is):
The research, which was published in the American Sociological Review, included feelings about political and economic roles of groups such as woman [sic] and African-Americans, as well as the civil liberties of groups such as atheists and homosexuals, and privacy issues including premarital sex.
It's true. Conservatism isn't so much a point on the liberal democratic spectrum as it is a collection of the most clichéd "bigotries" imaginable by your average 13 year old. (And I just love how strong views on premarital sex are lumped in there with racism and sexism.)
The study showed attitude changes in both 18-39 and 60 and older age groups, with the latter tending to grow more tolerant rather than more conservative.
Hmm, interesting. But I can't help noticing the absence of any mention of that other consequence of old age that might've confounded a bit this hypothesis. That is: a radical deterioration in judgement known as senility.