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Age against youth - political views of the old and the young

Prohibiting full-face veils in public, support for rural areas and raising taxes to prevent cutting services are issues to which older people in Sweden are significantly more positive than younger people. But political views in general do not show clear differences with age, although Swedes do tend to drift slowly to the right as they become older. These are the conclusions of a comparative analysis of the political views and knowledge of older and younger people, carried out by the SOM Institute at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

"Cohort analyses LEND SOME of support for the view expressed by Churchill when he said that if you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart: if you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain. But this is mainly true of LEFT-RIGHT SELF PLACEMENTS . The correlation is not particularly strong when we look at particular political issues", says Henrik Ekengren Oscarsson, Professor of Political Science at the SOM Institute (Society, Opinion, Media) University of Gothenburg.

Henrik Ekengren Oscarsson AND HIS TEAM has studied differences and similarities between older and younger people in Sweden, with respect to their political views, knowledge and values. The analysis is based on data from the SWEDISH NATIONAL ELECTION STUDIES" (from 1956 onwards) and from NATIONALLY REPRESENTATIVE SOM SURVEYS (from 1986 onwards). Both sets of reports are based on a representative selection of the Swedish population. The study concluded that older people have DRAMATICALLY better knowledge of political issues, and that a slight shift to the ideological right takes place as people become older. (www.snes.gu.se) (www.som.gu.se)

TODAY, Only 10 out of the 57 specific issues studied showed a clear correlation with age. The greatest age difference was found in issues relating to forbidding the wearing of full-face veils in public, support for rural areas, an increase in taxes to prevent cuts in services, and reintroduction of national service. Older people were much more positive to these ideas than younger people. In contrast, younger people were more positive to the idea of private companies providing care services for the elderly, increasing investment in independent schools, reducing the tax on alcohol, and decriminalisation of file sharing.

AS REGARDS HUMAN VALUES, there were small differences between the old and the young concerning fundamental human values, and the patterns were very similar in all generations. While young people set a high value on "fulfilling oneself", "a life full of pleasure" and "happiness", older people tended to set a high value on "health", "world peace" and "Sweden's security".

"Research into fundamental values has shown that patterns of what is valued are very similar in all generations, and differences in values between the young and the old are stable with time. Any overall shifts in value judgements that have taken place during the period from 1986 to 2008 have been very small and occurred very slowly", says Henrik Ekengren Oscarsson.

For more information, please contact: Henrik Ekengren Oscarsson Telephone: +46 31 786 4095, Mobile: +46 70 889 9343 E-mail: henrik.oscarsson@gu.se Blog: www.henrikoscarsson.com

idw :: 08.11.2011

PP Leibniz Graduate School on Aging and Age-Related Diseases (LGSA)
The LGSA is a joint PhD program of the Leibniz Institute on Aging - Fritz Lipmann Institute (FLI) and the Friedrich Schiller University (FSU) in Jena.

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