You learn something new every day:
On Fox News this morning, Mitt Romney explained that his positions today are more conservative than those when he was the governor of Massachusetts because “living a life tends to make you more conservative.” This echoes a saying often attributed (perhaps apocryphally) to Winston Churchill. It usually goes something like this: If you’re not a liberal at 20 you have no heart; if you’re not a conservative at 40 you have no brain.
Whatever the heartlessness or brainlessness of any given ideology, the conventional wisdom that people get more conservative as they age is wrong, according to sociological research.
At any given time older people are likely to be more conservative than contemporaneous young people. But relative to themselves as young people, today’s older folks have generally become more liberal than they once were.
That said, why are there so many cranky old conservatves out there? That's probably because so many of today's 50s-and-over came of age in the white working class backlash that started in the mid-1960s and lasted through the Reagan years. Those people may actually have been more conservatve once. Scary, huh? Also, I wonder if the studies are really measuring liberalism or its first cousin, tolerance. I think people generally become more tolerant as they age, because they're exposed to more people and more situations that challenge their original way of thinking. Look at Dick Cheney -- an ultra-conservative guy who learned that one of his daughters is gay, and then became fairly moderate on gay rights issues. That kind of thng happens a lot -- and the world is somewhat better for it.