I was on Dennis Prager’s nationally syndicated radio show today, taking issue with his premise that people generally get more conservative as they get older. He made the premise in order to assert that the reason people get more conservative with age is because they get wiser with age (wise = conservative, you see). Naive liberalism is to be found mostly among the ranks of the foolish younger, not the wise older… by implication.

But the idea that people get more conservative as they get older is unsubstantiated, which would make it a myth. Not only is there a lack of any long-term studies at all tracking people’s persuasions as they age, which would be the only way to definitively answer the question, but the emerging research that does exist – interviewing senior citizens, analyzing surveys taken by people who were 25 years old in 1972 and then by other people who were 35 years old in 1982, etc. – suggests that the opposite may actually turn out to be true. People may, if anything, get slightly more liberal with age, rather than more conservative.*

In any case, the burden of proof is upon Prager, since it is he making the claim that people get more conservative as they age. And rather than use his radio show to discuss this very interesting question, or conduct his own study, or start by proving his premise, Prager simply assumes that he’s right about this popular myth before starting.

So, I called him at the prompting of a Facebook friend, and later played the phonecall on my own radio show in the afternoon. Listen below.


* The sociologist Karl Pillemer conducted 1000 in-depth interviews with seniors for his book, and concluded a tendency to become more liberal (or at least less staunchly conservative) in older age. Nick Dangelis, a sociologist at the University of Vermont in Burlington, has analyzed earlier research and concluded similarly. Whether these are true or not, one thing is for sure: none of the research has concluded with Prager!