Fastcompany.com has a great set of charts on how political beliefs change over time. Interestingly, the graphs are created by OKCupid.com from mining the data collected in their dating database.
The chart tracks the following typical lifestyle. A teenager starts out loving freedom, socially and economically. When the teenagers enters the job market at the bottom of the pyramid, they quickly develop progressive economic ideas, while their youthful live-and-let-live social philosophy begins to fade.
As the teenager starts to make money, economic progressivism goes out the window, but social views don’t change that much. But after the mid-40s, as retirement looms, former teenagers check their collective 401(k)s and think, you know what, let’s all get checks from the government. It’s hard to tell why social views take a hard turn for the more restrictive.
At the end of the journey, economic and social views are again in agreement, but opposite of what the libertarian teenager started out.
The big question that is unanswered in this post is: to what extent is this a reflection of the beliefs of specific generations, not lifecycles? I’m not convinced that this chart would reflect the same thing decades from now. It’s also very America-centric. There are some places in the world where you could find many of the “conservative” political beliefs — whether they be nationalism, religion, ethnic nationalism, or family values — are adhered to more by younger generations.
Final note: tracking my own political leanings during the course of my life, it seems that I “turned 40 ” according the graphs above at about the age of 25.