[A] working paper, from the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity by Vivekinan Ashok, Ms. Kuziemko and Ebonya Washington, looks at how thinking about redistribution has varied over time among groups. One of its more striking conclusions: The shift away from a belief in redistribution has been stronger among older Americans than any other age group.
Might this be explained by the elderly becoming more conservative in general, and therefore taking a more conservative view on this issue? Not really. The shift showed up even when the researchers controlled for views on hot-button social issues like abortion and gun control.
The researchers offer another way of making sense of the pattern: Older Americans benefit more directly than any other age group from the social safety net, specifically, Social Security and Medicare. The fact that American seniors already receive government-provided health care may make them view any talk of greater redistribution as taking away what they already have, the researchers suggest.
During the debate over President Obama’s health care overhaul, this thread was often evident; with opinion polls showing that older Americans opposed the law more than younger people did. At the same time, conservative politicians and commentators pummeled the law for cutting Medicare spending to help pay for expanded coverage for younger Americans