The French prime minister Georges Clemenceau once said: “Not to be a socialist at 20 is proof of want of heart; to be one at 30 is proof of want of head.”

And now research has been released that tends to back up his thesis.

People who think they hold left-leaning or liberal political views do not realize how right wing they become as they get older, the study claims.


Researchers at Leicester University say that’s because older liberals tend to socialize with other older liberals going through the same political shift — and they tend to affirm each other’s self-image of their views and positions.

That can lead to middle aged people declaring themselves proudly and stubbornly liberal — when in fact the pressures of work, raising a family and holding down a job has probably given them a far more conservative outlook than they realize.

It can also mean some people vote for liberal-leaning political parties “by mistake,” said lead researcher Dr James Rockey.

“Politics is social,” Dr. Rockey said. “There are two main factors — the first is that people compare themselves not to the population as a whole but to the people they know; the second is that political preferences change over time.”

Dr. Rockey’s research studied 136,000 people. The data was gathered by the World Values Survey in 48 different countries, during five periods between 1981 and 2008.

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