Politics can’t be captured as a one dimensional left-versus-right framework. So when one notes that young people are Democrates and older folk tend to be Republicans, it doesn’t capture the complete spectrum of political beliefs. Are 18 year-olds Democrats because they believe in individual liberty, such as abortion and drug possession, or because the favor restrictions on trade?
OKCupid charts the progress of political beliefs from 18 to 60 year-olds on a two dimensional plane. Their progress reveals that, indeed, young individuals start as Democrat-types and then progress toward Republican-types. But young individuals begin as socially and economically liberal, but take on more restrictive views in economics while maintaining their social liberalism. Meanwhile, they present the data in a pretty sharp graph:
A note on the methodology. It appears this is a cross-section survey of 172,853 people at a given time. Thus, the researchers can’t decouple age from generations. That is, today’s 18 year-old may be libertarian, but that could be a fact for millennials, not from age. The next generation may introduce a different age-politics profile.