Who is Happier? Conservatives or Liberals
The following is a digest of a story by Arthur Brooks, published on July 7th, 2012 in the New York Times Sunday Review Opinion Pages.
Conservatives are often portrayed in the media as stodgy, intolerant, fearful of change, unable to assimilate complex scenarios, slaves to black-and-white thinking, etc. All of this might lead you to believe that the average conservative is less happy and satisfied with life than the average liberal.
Research is showing that conclusion is wrong.
The Pew Research Center reported in 2006 that, in fact, Republicans were much more likely to be happier with their lives than Democrats. 45% of Republicans described themselves as happy, compared to 30% of Democrats and 29% of independents.
Some 45% of all Republicans report being very happy, compared with just 30% of Democrats and 29% of independents. This finding has also been around a long time; Republicans have been happier than Democrats every year since the General Social Survey began taking its measurements in 1972.
To what might we attribute this finding? It is likely not a surprise that more conservatives are married than liberals, and the same Pew research shows that married people are in general more happier by their own description than singles.
The same is true with religious commitment. People who are committed to a faith tradition, regardless of which faith tradition, report themselves to be far happier than those who are not religious. Like the issue with marriage, more political conservatives are also people of faith.
People who attend religious services weekly or more are happier (43% very happy) than those who attend monthly or less (31%); or seldom or never (26%).
This correlation between happiness and frequency of church attendance has been a consistent finding in the General Social Surveys taken over the years.
It is also true that conservatives tend to be happier and more satisfied with our free market economic system. Liberals may either be more attuned to the suffering of others OR falsely convinced that this suffering is the result of an unfair economic system. Either way, their view leads to less happiness. This idea should not be seen as any kind of statement about the reality of our political system and society. It’s simply a matter of perception, which without any necessary connection to reality, still affects ones perception of the world and happiness in it.
One might point to the recent Occupy Wall Street protestors as an example. Whether or not their anger and feelings of betrayal were valid, these were most definitely not happy people.