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Too young to understand politics? No, not young enough.

Written by Alex Koroknay-Palicz Jun 17, 2008

While NYRA isn’t in the business of generational warfare, we have seen our share of artillery barrages from older generational warriors.  So now and then it doesn’t hurt to peak out from our trenches and fire back.  A fascinating new study gives us some nice ammo:

Political science professors Richard R. Lau of Rutgers University and David P. Redlawsk of the University of Iowa say voters in their mid-to-late 60s start to lose their grip on evaluating political candidates. In simulated presidential campaigns, Lau and Redlawsk found that older voters both seek out and recall less information about candidates. As a result, seniors have overall lower rates of what Lau and Redlawsk call “correct voting” — a measure they developed to test how well voters select the candidates who share their positions and ideologies.

More details:

The age effects start showing up in the mid-to-late 60s. As people age, two things are happening. One is that they have a harder time processing new information, so they are learning less quickly than they used to. But as people age, they also have more overall knowledge to draw on. This means they have more established intuitive shortcuts, which means they actually need less information to make a good decision because they better know what information to look for in the first place.

For the first 50 years of one’s voting-age life, then, these two forces tend to balance each other out. But increasing reserves of experience can compensate for declining mental sharpness only until about the mid-to-late 60s. After that, the decline picks up steam. By the time voters turn 90, the scholars’ models predict their correct level of voting will be roughly half of what it was when they were 20.

Quite interesting indeed.  Yet would anyone remotely suggest to set a maximum voting age?  Not bloody likely.  Since voting competence exists on a continuum with lower competencies at either end, why does one end get the vote and the other end is completely disenfranchised?

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