Within the US young, college aged, individuals are commonly thought of being more attracted to the democratic party, while it's also commonly believed that the elderly usually vote republican. I believe studies have backed these general archetypes up by showing that Democrats tend to see a larger percentage of the college-age demographic, and elderly shown to significantly favor republican candidates.

However, it seems to me when I meet people, particularly the ones that regularly vote and associate themselves with either party, they seem to be pretty adamant about the party as a whole. It's hard for me to imagine them changing political parties; for that matter I suspect many voters don't even know how to actually change which party they are registered to.

I'm wondering if the statistics showing the young favor a different party then they old imply that people (on average) tend to adjust which party they lean towards over the course of their age? Or is the discrepancy due to some other statistical trends. For instance do democratically inclined voters tending to stop voting as they age and Republican inclined voters tending to start voting more as they age. Ie people stick to the same party and all that changes is their tendency to vote.

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    Why people vote the way they vote is a pretty broad topic. But your question is interesting. I have a hunch it's that people simply change their viewpoints as they get older. But I am curious as to if it's also based on voter apathy as you hint at. – user1530 Aug 21 '15 at 20:51
  • @blip oh I know i'm talking in large statistical generalities now. I'm by no means claiming all young people are democratic or all old people are republican, or even a tendency to vote republican means you actually are registered republican. Still, I'm curious what causes those broad statistical fluctuations. I'd love to find a study on it if I knew where to look. – dsollen Aug 21 '15 at 21:43
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    My take on your question is this: do old people vote conservative because they have changed their views as they aged, or because of the experiences and culture they grew up with? Or some combination of these? – aaaidan Aug 21 '15 at 23:32
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    I think the question can be summed up as "Do more young people vote democrat and more old people vote republican due to individual political stances changing over time, or because more democrats vote while young, and more republicans vote while older.?" – user1530 Aug 21 '15 at 23:39
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    People at different life stages have different priorities. Life stages are correlated with age. If most voters vote on a narrow, self-interested basis, and if distribution of headline policies attractive to people in different life stages is uneven across Democratic and Republican parties, then you will see a correllation of age with political party. – 52d6c6af Aug 23 '15 at 18:25

There is a discussion about a similar trend in the UK here, which summarises research published by the author here. In short, people tend to switch political allegiances over time, so formerly left-leaning individuals do change their allegiance to the right, by about 0.35% of the population per year with age.

Why this happens is likely a combination of factors: such as changing priorities for individuals. Also, the research notes that people can be more-or-less conservative depending on when they reach adulthood, so the political climate during their formative years could have a significant effect on political preferences over long periods of time.

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This is fairly difficult to gauge in U.S. politics because of the ongoing process of realignment.

In 1950, Southern whites were predominantly Democrats, while blacks in the South were predominantly Republicans. These days, of course, those positions are reversed. Southern whites were alienated from the Democratic party when it embraced the Civil Rights movement and gravitated towards the only viable alternative, the Republican party, instead, first in federal elections, and eventually in state and local elections.

Likewise, as recently as the 1970s, the Republican party was thriving in the Northeast, while today, only a handful of Representatives and Senators in the U.S. Congress from the Northeast are Republicans.

Many people attribute this shift to Republican Presidential nominee Goldwater's "Southern Strategy". Candidates like Eisenhower, Nixon and even Ronald Reagan (who was an actor and a union President) would all probably be too far to the left to have any reasonable shot as winning a Republican Presidential nomination today.

As recently as the 1980s, at the federal level, the U.S. had what amounts to a three party system with Southern Democrats swinging between Republicans and Northern Democrats - favoring Republicans on military and social issues, and favoring Democrats on economic issues. Today, there are almost no moderates in Congress with all Democrats being more liberal than all Republicans on almost every issue.

People's political views have been considerably more static than their party affiliations.

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For me personally: I changed party affiliation as I aged. This is because I experienced the "opportunity" to live under a government of the party that I had previously supported. Sadly IMHO both major US parties have since gone a bit crazy, so I have become unenrolled (belong to neither party), but always vote for the most acceptable candidate.

I believe that the recent Trump election in the US was caused by many voters who feel (probably entirely correctly) that neither traditional party cares about them at all, and who therefore had not been voting until someone came along who at least acknowledged that they exist. I think that the great majority of these voters have changed party affiliation as they aged.

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    The Q is more about available statistics rather than polling the SE Politics crowd. – agc Mar 7 '17 at 16:15
  • The question is about what is the usual situation in the United States. For example is Churchill's quip accurate. The question is,is the usual stereotype true. – sabbahillel Mar 7 '17 at 20:00

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