A new research has debunked the long-held belief that people grow more conservative in their attitudes and political beliefs, as they age.
The research is the first to show that people 60 and over become more liberal faster as they age than does a younger cohort.
The study, conducted by sociologists Nicholas L. Danigelis and Stephen J. Cutler of the University of Vermont and Melissa Hardy a sociologist at Pennsylvania State University, strongly suggests that this long-held belief about older citizens being more rigid isn't true.
The study is based on U.S. General Social Survey data from 25 surveys between 1972 and 2004 that measure the changes in attitudes that occur within cohorts at different stages in life.
The political leanings of 46,510 Americans were examined with regard to how they felt about the political and economic roles of historically subordinate groups, e.g., women and African-Americans; the civil liberties of groups considered outside the U.S. mainstream, e.g., atheists and homosexuals; and privacy issues, e.g., right-to-die and sex between consenting adults.
Results showed that although change occurred in both the 18-39 and 60-and-over age groups, the movement among the older group was greater and was most often toward "increased tolerance rather than increased conservatism."
"It proves that some of the commonly held beliefs about older people being rigid and unwilling to change aren't true," said Danigelis.
"Clearly both cohorts changed, but the older one changed more dramatically. In other words, getting older makes you more conservative, but only if you're a younger person," he added.
The study 'Population Aging, Intracohort Aging, and Sociological Attitudes' is published in American Sociological Review.