When Did You Lock in Your Political Beliefs?

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The adage that you get more conservative as you get older doesn't exactly hold up. David Leonhardt, editor of The New York Times's The Upshot, discusses some new data and reporting that show how people develop their political leanings over time. The nature of the presidency during our late teens and twenties is particularly formative -- which means 2016s youngest voters may start to lean right as they get older.


David Leonhardt

Comments [41]

gene from NYC

Michael Bengis from Hopatcong, NJ--

My older brother, born in 1932, had a similar conversion in the 90s, when he recognized that the Repubs were not adhering to his ideal of fiscal responsibility. It was pretty earth-shaking when he voted for a Dem for the first time in decades--Bill Clinton.

Jul. 10 2014 09:19 AM

New journo meme - read research - Write predictive article as news. Did he go over the methodology, stats et al. with those in the field doing the study?

Does he remember the Wall ST disclaimer for investments?

Perhaps the disclaimer should be 50 pt type in red on study covers: Future results and your experience (investment return) may differ from this study due to study limitations (please list) and future events.

Mr. Leonhardt has adapted to the DC bubble well. Now he imitates WaPo crystal ball gazing articles.

Jul. 09 2014 08:37 PM

I was born in 1955 and though I went to Catholic schools through 12th I was very liberal until I started college and simultaneously moved to the Mid Hudson Valley. I was moderately conservative, mainly fiscally, in my twenties (mid 70's-mid 80's) as were my friends, even while working in a welfare office. Then when I went back to school for my Master's in the late 80's and 90's and I became more liberal again and have remained so to this day.

Jul. 09 2014 12:03 PM
Independent from Outside The Herd

________Begin Quoted Text____________

Don't label yourself as anything, ever.

You get wrapped up in the definition of that label, and modify your own beliefs to become more accurately described by that label.

Think freely. Make your own opinions, and dgaf [DGAF= Don't Give A [expletive] ] about the side you're agreeing with.

____________End Quoted Text_______________________

Source: Anonymous post found somewhere on the Internet.

Janet Price from Brooklyn wrote,

"[...]inspired by my FDR democrat family and tikkun haolam Rabbi[...]"

Actually, a more fitting description for any rabbi who champions what you, in truly Orwellian fashion, call "reproductive rights", would be "`Hariv HaOlam" or "Mazik HaOlam"

("HaOlam"= The World. "tikkun"= rectify;amend; perfect. "mazik"= damage. "`hariv"= destroy)

Jul. 09 2014 11:22 AM


"...the balanced budget was not based on something real. As someone else said, it was based on a bubble and assumptions that the bubble would last forever. Even if I accept your argument, we have had a trillion dollar per year deficits since 2009..."

Go back and check your numbers rather believing what 'someone else said'. The 2013 deficit was $680B. If Obama had been more aggressive on stimulus and gotten unemployment on a firmer recovery sooner, the deficit spending of 2012 would probably have been reduced. But a falling deficit in 2012, would have spelled doom for the GOP and we certainly couldn't have had that!

Regardless of the belief that the surplus was based on a bubble, there can be no doubt that the actions of the Bush and Congress made turned a surplus into a deficit almost immediately. That spells only one thing for me h-y-p-o-c-r-i-s-y. The GOP wants to pretend that they are the party that will protect the nation's finances. They can say it but you can't prove it by their actions.

Jul. 09 2014 11:19 AM
The Truth from Becky

Everyone wants to talk about Obama's "Democratic sweep" in his first term...who would have dreamed the republicans planned to block all proposals thereafter? I would guess not even the republicans blind followers.

Jul. 09 2014 11:10 AM
Joseph from Collingswood, NJ

This is a bizarre idea to me. What liberal things are happening right now, exactly? Yes Barak Obama is the president, but nothing going on right now is particularly "liberal". Congress is being held up by conservative ideologues who want the government to fail. As a result, the foundations of our country are faltering, and, importantly, young people are seeing absolutely no support when they leave school with increasing debt. How does this result in increase conservatism in kids? This is absurd to me. If anything, this makes me want to vote even more liberal - Green, Socialist - in the future, because obviously Democrats are absolutely useless.

Jul. 09 2014 11:10 AM
Terry W

people who either have blinders on or are apologist like yourself are just sad. Try looking at life outside of the box you've placed yourself in. If you cannot see the problems brought about from BOTH parties, you are a lost cause. Your long history of posts expose your biases.

Jul. 09 2014 11:03 AM

@Terry W

"I love those who blame the Republicans for Obama's woes and forget he not only had a complete Democratic sweep in his first term"

Which the GOP fought tooth and nail to block! The birth of the filibuster-constipated Senate begins in 2008. The filibuster-proof majority, didn't occur until Al Franken was finally sworn (July '08) in and ended when Teddy Kennedy died eight weeks later. And the senate was in recess for four of those weeks! Until that point, the Democrats had to sway an Independent (usu. Joe Lieberman) to caucus and vote with them. Realizing this, the GOP spent whatever it took to put Scott Brown in Teddy Kennedy's seat. The voters of Massachusetts corrected that but Senate would have lost two years of its filibuster power without Brown's inauguration.

So peddling the line that 'Obama had a majority for two years' is just GOP propaganda. Sell it somewhere else where facts don't matter.

Jul. 09 2014 10:56 AM

RUCB_Alum, the balanced budget was not based on something real. As someone else said, it was based on a bubble and assumptions that the bubble would last forever. Even if I accept your argument, we have had a trillion dollar per year deficits since 2009 even with our Federal Reserve printing trillions of dollars and holding rates close to zero. I'm sure they would have been even larger if there was no opposition. This really worries me for my future and the country's. Also, your first paragraph apply to both parties unfortunately.

Jul. 09 2014 10:53 AM
Bryan from NYC

Curious how "Blacks" born in 1971 have leaned politically in their lives. Is that not worth noting? A forgone conclusion? What about other racial groups? Maybe the fear the P.C. police will raid your office prevents publishing the those results. - Feel better soon Brian.

Jul. 09 2014 10:46 AM
Michael Bengis from Hopatcong, NJ

I am annoyed that because I was born in 1936, I'm not even included in the illustrated graph. I'm sure the people who made up that graph won't know how that feels until they get to be 78 years old and find that their statistics no longer have any value.
As to politics, I leaned conservative for most of my life until it dawned on me how G W Bush was mismanaging the Iraq invasion, and generally didn't know what he was doing. That started a whole new train of thinking for me, and I realized that what my wife had been sort of preaching to me for the past 40 plus years was so, republicanism sucks.

Jul. 09 2014 10:45 AM
Terry W

...also don't get suckered in to some of the long standing social issues that neither party actually want to change since it motivates their bases. Even when a single party controls the entire government, these issues never are solved one way or another, that should tell you something.

Jul. 09 2014 10:45 AM
Sharon from Westchester

I was born in 1951 in the Midwest. My father was vocal about his very conservative politics; my mother, I realized as I grew up, was more liberal though not as forthcoming about her beliefs. I have a vivid memory during the Nixon-Kennedy campaign of my mother taking me aside and telling me that she really liked Jack Kennedy--but not to tell my father! We moved a lot, so I ended up attending high school in California, during the Vietnam War. Another strong influence on my politics was my history teacher. He did not hesitate to share his views on the war. I remember him debating the merits of the expansion of our presence there in 1968 with a student who wanted to "bomb them back to the stone age," as the horrible phrase went at the time. Finally, during my freshman year in college (still in California). I took part in the fall moratorium and the spring anti-war protests in response to the Cambodian invasion and the Kent State killings. I was also strongly influenced by both the environmental and the women's movement. At 63, I am still a liberal democrat. My sister, however, who was born in 1955 and who attended high school and college in Florida is much more conservative, I think in part because she missed all the political upheaval of the late sixties and early seventies.

Jul. 09 2014 10:44 AM


I guess your disgust is to be expected but your placement of blame on the President rather than the members of Congress who are aggressively trying to block any and all government action is beyond me. These GOP legislators overuse the filibuster and hold the majority position in the House only due to gerrymandering. They ruthlessly pursue acts that benefit donors and party over the nation.

Just look at how quickly and easily they destroyed the hard-fought balanced budget (in fact a budget surplus that would have paid down the national debt in a decade) when Bush II took office. This was a raid on the treasury that gave money taken in payroll taxes back to the payers of income taxes. In short, 'We wuz robbed'. How can you blame Obama and not recognize the duplicitous role of the GOP? Maybe you are just ten years too young.

Jul. 09 2014 10:43 AM
Terry W

Nicole, my situation is very similar to yours. One thing that has shifted me is the realization that while at the time I thought Clinton was a good President,things that started under his term have led to many problems we have today. NAFTA as someone else mentioned has been a big problem, deregulation of banking and home loans was another. I've also realized with age, much of the great economy we had then was smoke and mirrors like we had in the 2000s under Bush. Instead of the economy growing on inflated housing and cheap money, it was based on early globalization, an easy fed and a stock market bubble.

Those who say there is not much difference other than talk are so right. It is important not to treat politics like football. Look closely at each candidate and what they stand for, do the research and look beyond headlines and the rah-rah mentality.

Jul. 09 2014 10:41 AM

I think I am just disillusioned with politics and ideology or morality in general. There was a moment when it became clear to me that trying to dictate economic morality is just as bad an idea as dictating sexual morality. Telling people how to behave sexually just leads to repression and hypocrisy. Economic morality is sadly no better. You can only meet so many bourgeois Marxists and food stamp Republicans before you realize it's all a farce. Poor rich kids feel so guilty about being privileged that they have to put on leftist dog and pony shows at school before going home to their undocumented servants at dad's McMansion. Likewise, impoverished working people are so ashamed to take government help that they have to rant about Obama for an hour every time they use their EBT card. It's all ridiculous.

Jul. 09 2014 10:33 AM
Terry W

LOL. I love those who blame the Republicans for Obama's woes and forget he not only had a complete Democratic sweep in his first term, the Republican's only hold 1 house. They also forget Obama has gotten almost every major thing he has wanted and just ignored things he didn't and we see the results.

Jul. 09 2014 10:32 AM
Independent from Outside The Herd

1.) "When Did You Lock In Your Political Beliefs?"

Should one /ever/ "Lock-In" one's political beliefs? Shouldn't one always remain open to considering new evidence, new ideas, new developments, etc.?

2.) The Republicans and Democrats are little more than two wings of what is essentially the same party: That of the corporate-military ruling sector. Which wing of this bird of prey the next generation chooses is of not that much more import than whether they choose Coke or Pepsi.

Jul. 09 2014 10:31 AM
Nicole from South Orange, NJ

Born in '72, I remember being very proud that my parents were Republicans. Bragging they had voted for Reagan in '84, they voted for Bush. Then, there was "Read my lips. No new taxes." and the Persian Gulf War, and those feelings of pride dissipated quickly. My parents became Democrats and so did I. Clinton was our savior at the time, and those circumstances helped to shape my political views of today.

Jul. 09 2014 10:31 AM
David from Manhattan

I used to be conservative growing up in the Rocky Mountains. My family moved to NYC and I became more of a centric (was in high school then). Now as an adult and more aware of current events politics and otherwise, I have become very liberal. The switch was the disastrous Bush era, the financial collapse and "movement conservatism" (as described by Paul Krugman), and particularly the disfunction of this Republican Congress. I can't understand why anyone who is NOT incredibly rich, white and/or super religious would ever vote Republican. This however is an interesting read on that mystery.

Jul. 09 2014 10:28 AM

Born in '49. Childhood in another country. Johnson v Goldwater I was just too young to vote, old enough to know many subject to the draft. My perception that Johnson kept all of Goldwater's campaign promises made me swear I would never cast a vote for President because I was against his opponent. First time I voted was for Nader. No regrets, all politics are corrupt, etc.

Jul. 09 2014 10:27 AM

My first vote ever was for Obama. After 2 terms with him in office, I think at least for now, I would consider myself a new Republican voter. The President's say one thing do another attitude, the defense of spying programs, really bad economic choices which 6 years in cant be blamed on the past any longer, general lack of leadership (why is he always fund raising and golfing - and doing so at the tax payers expense?!!!), etc. I have become fed up and haven't even left my 20s yet. ugh.

Jul. 09 2014 10:27 AM

Representative politics in the US is skewed toward the rural population states (conservative). These low population States get 2 senators and when one compares the number of citizens per House rep - the smaller population states usually have fewer citizens per Rep; the larger population states have more citizens per Rep. Because of this, rural conservative ideology is always over represented, urban progressive ideology is always under represented.

Let's take a look at Wyoming vs California using census data from Wikipedia:
Wyoming population - 582,658; population per house seat - 582,658; population per senate seat - 292,000.
California population - 38 million; population per house seat - 723,255; population per senate seat - 19 million.

The entire state of Wyoming has fewer citizens than most major US cities -yet they get 2 senators.

Jul. 09 2014 10:27 AM

this is a commercial for the Fed now?

Jul. 09 2014 10:27 AM
Kei from Queens

I'm a 28-year old from NJ & NY. I grew up as a woman of color in various communities and noticed new trends in my peers' attitudes towards race that on the outside appears more socially conservative. I'm assuming that it's because we didn't grow up to witness the overt oppression that our predecessors experienced (whether as an actor, recipient or witness of that oppression) and institutional structures of oppression --as well as just attitudes about race that we are not aware of--are still there. so measures taken to correct this oppression as well as understanding how privilege plays out feels like unfair treatment to many of my peers.
I understand that many of us have grown up wondering why this structure exists in a perceived "colorblind world", and that the issue of race is complex. As a woman of color I've experienced and continue to experience a world colored with implicit and explicit bias that is often hard to communicate to my peers. I feel a stronger need than ever (maybe because I'm getting older!) to keep the lines of communication going amongst people of all backgrounds.

Jul. 09 2014 10:27 AM
Jeb from Brooklyn

Born 1975, male. Raised on children's stories in Ms. Magazine and Free to Be You and Me. Antisexist, antiracist and pro-gay from birth, as a result. And so ... never able to lean conservative.

What your parents reveal to you early on shapes one's political identity. Whether we admit it or not. It hardwires us.

I often wonder if I'd had different parents with different leanings if I could hold entirely different beliefs.

Jul. 09 2014 10:25 AM
Roberta from Brooklyn

The change from 54 to 55 was because of eligibility for the draft.

Jul. 09 2014 10:24 AM
Janet Price from Brooklyn

Thought of myself as radical Was busted at Columbia in 68 Was turned off by male dominated testosterone driven, four letter word dependent strike. Retreated to microfiche library to write paper about anarchist Emma Goldman. Got interested in Equal Rights Amendment, reproductive rights and other women's issues. Today, as a 65 year old, I am most interested in economic justice. Never really retreated from my social democratic ideals (inspired by my FDR democrat family and tikkun haolam Rabbi--just redirected my concerns and energy as my own experiences led me.

Jul. 09 2014 10:23 AM
carol from NYC

I'm 49, and seeing Reagan run for president was what cemented my identity as a democrat. Yeah, I knew dems had been down for years, but watching Reagan, who seemed like such a charlatan, fooling people into thinking that acting "patriotic" and selfish and looking down on poor people was going to fix everything? That made me realize that the Republicans were simply intent on getting into power by manipulating people's basest prejudices, rather than doing anything. I had also experienced the racist rhetoric from Republicans up to that point and was already suspicious of them, as a bi-racial person.

Jul. 09 2014 10:20 AM
The Truth from Becky

Loaded question Brian, as you know, the further you go back the "whiter" political picture HOWEVER, the political conversation in my household did not dictate my current political posture. I developed my attitude based on my own research and experiences.

Jul. 09 2014 10:19 AM
Ali from brooklyn

Listing "Muslim" as a race classification, as Brian just did, is an error.

Jul. 09 2014 10:19 AM
Mr. Bad from NYC

1976. The two parties are almost exactly the same, take away the divisive "wedge" issues and they are the same party:

1) Gun "Rights"
2) Abortion/Birth Control "Rights"
3) Gay "Rights"

And then what? Massive Tax Cuts vs. Massive Social Spending Programs? Both are inflationary and fiscally unsound.

Both parties are part of the same "captured" government which is AKSHULLY run by the same shadowy "Deep State", the offspring and apotheosis of the Military Industrial Complex. "Don't blame me I voted for Kodos..."

Jul. 09 2014 10:18 AM

I think that America post-9/11 constitutes a 'lost generation'...Not just for those born from - '01-'14 -- but for all of us (at least in terms of earning power.) That's close to 4,000 person-years that were obliterated. I turned 45 in in 2001, and feel that the years from 45-55 were lost to me.

Regardless of the cause, GDP has grown by 50% and median incomes have not budged. Has your personal income increased by 50% since 2001? Then you are being fleeced, too. If that continues for another generation I fear there will be blood.

Get some tea with honey and lemon going there, Brian! Be well.

Jul. 09 2014 10:18 AM

Count me as one who has lost faith in both parties. Both of our last presidents have been complete and utter disasters in their own special ways. I would love a fairly socially liberal, but economically conservative party. Too bad one doesn't exist and may never.

Jul. 09 2014 10:16 AM

29 years old from Paterson New Jersey. During the Clinton administration I've witnessed my Dad lose his factory dye-job in what was once one of the biggest production areas in the country, Paterson New Jersey, due to the ratification of NAFTA. Factory jobs were exported to China by the masses. A former immigrant, now a U.S. citizen, with limited formal education led my father fell into depression, and drug addiction because he simply could not feed his family. My mother, pregnant with her 3rd child; once a stay-at-home Mom was able to go to school full time, get her associate nursing degree and keep our family alive. NAFTA destroyed our family.

Jul. 09 2014 10:14 AM
BK from Hoboken

Are young people, who accept homosexuality as a non-issue, who accept scientists who say the earth is changing, who accept that a woman should have control over her own body, who see themselves and many of their friends as mixed race, really going to vote for the Republican Party as it stands now as bigoted, hypocritical (small government unless it concerns sexuality), veiled racism (immigration issues, voting ID cards), closed minded party?!
I grew up with Bush the elder and Clinton, and remember how insulted I was that Clinton was messing around in the Oval Office. Looking back I realized that the country was doing so well economically that we had nothing else to complain about so little matters were blown out of proportion. Remember "I didn't inhale" back then vs Obama who admitted to doing cocaine?

Jul. 09 2014 10:13 AM
Fred from Queens

I'm 28, originally from the Northeast and vote Democratic Party/liberal, but I can't say if this is due to opposition to the Iraq war and disgust with the social policies of the Bush years, or if it is largely shaped by coming from a liberal, pro-union, etc. family and part of the country.

Jul. 09 2014 10:11 AM
Alison from NYC

and what about the influence of parents and peers?
do young people today watch what is happening in the House of Reps?

Jul. 09 2014 10:11 AM
John from Brooklyn

This is a bit ridiculous -- your guest, while he's done some interesting research, completely ignores the fact that we now live in a corporate oligarchy. Regular people are more and more realizing this sad fact, which will factor into their political leanings, whether Bush, Obama, or anyone else is president when they come of age.

Jul. 09 2014 10:07 AM

you turned this into an Obama commercial...great job

Jul. 09 2014 10:06 AM

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