Does age have an influence on an individual’s likelihood to lean left or right on the political spectrum?

A data analysis by Patrick Prizeman

“To what extent does age affect left-right political orientation?” This article will look at left right political orientation and whether it affected by age or not. The data used in this article is from the Irish National Election Survey, based on exit polls at the 2016 General Election. In order to understand why age would/would not have an influence on the choice of left or right, it will also examine whether education has an impact in swaying an individual’s preference regarding left right orientation.


There are many reasons that the proposed question is worth examining. Firstly, it is extremely advantageous to understand why voters lean the way they do. If there is a clear difference in how younger individuals vote when comparing them with older voters, then it is essential that we learn why this occurs. If younger individuals tend to vote more liberally, then it is important that we understand why. If education is affecting left right orientation and those who have a higher degree of education tend to vote more liberally and those with a lower degree of education tend to vote conservatively, then we must acknowledge that there is an issue with source of information being provided to those who lean right.


This first source for evaluation is taken from the Guardian regarding voting patterns in Britain, states that age has a clear impact on left right orientation in politics. As we get older, we apparently grow more conservative, while the younger we are, the more liberal we are apparently in our choices.


The second source by Waber  & Saris (2015), states a respondent’s level of formal education directly influences their political orientation. It also states that the older you are, the more likely you are to adopt a “rightist” political mentality.


The third source (Van Den Berg, Job and Coffé. 2012) evaluated was extremely helpful with regards to understanding the effects that education has on one’s political affiliation. Higher educated people are more likely to vote for parties that are closely linked to environmental issues, which in contemporary have been in line with many left wing parties. Lower educated people try to protect themselves by defending the maintenance of national borders and traditional norms, which in modern times are closely linked to conservative traits.


This article is being measured through graphs, tables and a multiple regression. This will be explained in further detail below. The dependent variable being tested here, as stated above, is the left right divide. It is a categorical ordinal variable. This means that the dependent variable is measured in a particular categorical order, in this case 0-10.


The key independent variable in this analysis is age. Education will also be considered as it is an important factor and will be used as a control variable when discussing left right political affiliation. Age is a scale variable, measured in intervals and education is also a scale variable that is measured in intervals.


Table 1: Table explaining left right affiliation

Pic diagram one -

In this table, one can see respondents left right affiliation. 0 being the most left, 5 being the most center and 10 being the most right. There are a total of 200 respondents, with the mean (38%) falling in the centre on 5. Table 1 also shows us that there are slightly more respondents leaning left, with a total of 34% leaning more liberally and 28% being more conservative.


Table 2: Scatter plot of left right affiliation by age

pic 2 diagram

The scatter plot shown in Table 2 gives a clear representation of the effect that age has on political preference with regards to left or right orientation. The graph places age on the X axis and Left Right preference on the Y axis. From this we can determine where respondents are measured on the left right scale according to their age. For example, at the most right level of the graph, 10 on the Y axis, there are no respondents that are below the age of 35. While on the most left level of the graph, 0 on the Y axis, the majority of the respondents fall into the age bracket of 22-45.

Table 3: Individual bar charts of left right orientation by age
pic diagram 3

Discussed here will be graph 0, 5 and 10. 0 being the furthest left, 5 being centre and 10 the furthest right on the political spectrum.


In the chart labelled 0, we can see that there is a high number 20-45 year olds. What this indicates, is that those who are younger do in fact have a tendency to adopt a more leftist approach and that those with a higher degree of education (in the 30-45 range) are also likely to adopt a leftist approach rather than a rightist.


In the chart labelled 5, we learn that this is where the highest proportion of individuals resides on the spectrum. With a wide variety of ages, it is clear that most of the sample population are centre right/centre left.


In the chart labelled 10, we notice that there are no individuals under the age of 35 and that there is a large number of older individuals (60+). Comparing these three charts we are able to witness that younger people do in fact lean left and older people do lean more right.







Table 4:  Multiple regression of left right affiliation tested with age and

pic diagram 4

In table 4 there are several key areas on information to be taken. These are the coefficient standard error, confidence interval. When looking under column ‘Coef.’ this is the coefficient.. The standard deviation is listed as ‘Std. Err.’ and the confidence level is ‘[95% Conf. Interval]’. All figures will be rounded to two decimal places.


Looking at the coefficient for age and left right orientation the figure produced is 0.03. This means there is a positive effect on the left right scale of 3% when discussing age. In other words, as a person ages there are a 3% rise in their affiliation towards the more conservative level. For education a similar process occurs except at a much higher percentage of 32%.


The standard error describes the accuracy in prediction, for age this is determined to be 0.01 or 1% whereas education is 0.24 or 24%. This is significant as it displays the error in the regression model on average using the units of response.


A confidence interval contains the probability of achieving the same or similar results from repeat observations. A 95% confidence level is selected for this paper, this means that when repeated 95% on the mean respondents will be the same.


From the analysis produced here, it can be seen that left right affiliation is affected by age and education. In Table 1, we can see that the majority of individuals fall into the centre of the spectrum. While slightly more tend to lean left than right. From the research this article has discovered that clearly more educated, young individuals tend to be more leftist while, older less educated individuals, more rightist.


This is a brief introduction to life right affiliation when discussing education and age and the influence the independent variables had on one’s political affiliation. Although this was only a short investigation, from the tables used it becomes very clear that there is obviously a close connection between left-right preference and age/education. The analysis of the data used throughout, shows that the older you are, the more likely you are to be conservative and the younger you are, the more likely you are to be liberal. However, we have also learned that although this is generally the case, there are instances where a small number of older individuals will vote liberally due to having a higher degree of education.


What this project would suggest for future research on left right affiliation would be to add more independent variables such as gender and party affiliation. From these two variables, one could learn how male female divides and issues regarding gender equally influence one’s choice when leaning left or right on the political spectrum. When researching party affiliation one could determine whether an individual’s loyalty to a specific party influences their decision to lean right or left on the spectrum. An additional independent variable that I would recommend to anyone researching this topic in future to add would be religion.


Tilley, J. (2015). Do We Really Become More Conservative With Age?. The Guardian. [online] Available at: Accessed 22 May 2017].

Van Den Berg, Job C & Coffé, H. 2012, “Educational and class cleavages in voting behaviour in Belgium: The effect of income, EGP class and education on party choice in Flanders and Wallonia”, Acta Politica, vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 151-180.


Weber, W. & Saris, W. 2015, “The relationship between issues and an individual’s left right orientation” ACTA POLITCA, vol 50, no. 2, pp. 193-213




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