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News & Politics News & Politics

New York Times: Why Conservatives Are Happier Than Liberals

Why Conservatives Are Happier Than Liberals

WHO is happier about life — liberals or conservatives? The answer might seem straightforward. After all, there is an entire academic literature in the social sciences dedicated to showing conservatives as naturally authoritarian, dogmatic, intolerant of ambiguity, fearful of threat and loss, low in self-esteem and uncomfortable with complex modes of thinking. And it was the candidate Barack Obama in 2008 who infamously labeled blue-collar voters “bitter,” as they “cling to guns or religion.” Obviously, liberals must be happier, right?

Wrong. Scholars on both the left and right have studied this question extensively, and have reached a consensus that it is conservatives who possess the happiness edge. Many data sets show this. For example, the Pew Research Center in 2006 reported that conservative Republicans were 68 percent more likely than liberal Democrats to say they were “very happy” about their lives. This pattern has persisted for decades. The question isn’t whether this is true, but why.

Many conservatives favor an explanation focusing on lifestyle differences, such as marriage and faith. They note that most conservatives are married; most liberals are not. (The percentages are 53 percent to 33 percent, according to my calculations using data from the 2004 General Social Survey, and almost none of the gap is due to the fact that liberals tend to be younger than conservatives.) Marriage and happiness go together. If two people are demographically the same but one is married and the other is not, the married person will be 18 percentage points more likely to say he or she is very happy than the unmarried person.

The story on religion is much the same. According to the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, conservatives who practice a faith outnumber religious liberals in America nearly four to one. And the link to happiness? You guessed it. Religious participants are nearly twice as likely to say they are very happy about their lives as are secularists (43 percent to 23 percent). The differences don’t depend on education, race, sex or age; the happiness difference exists even when you account for income.

Whether religion and marriage should make people happy is a question you have to answer for yourself. But consider this: Fifty-two percent of married, religious, politically conservative people (with kids) are very happy — versus only 14 percent of single, secular, liberal people without kids.

An explanation for the happiness gap more congenial to liberals is that conservatives are simply inattentive to the misery of others. If they recognized the injustice in the world, they wouldn’t be so cheerful. In the words of Jaime Napier and John Jost, New York University psychologists, in the journal Psychological Science, “Liberals may be less happy than conservatives because they are less ideologically prepared to rationalize (or explain away) the degree of inequality in society.” The academic parlance for this is “system justification.”

The data show that conservatives do indeed see the free enterprise system in a sunnier light than liberals do, believing in each American’s ability to get ahead on the basis of achievement. Liberals are more likely to see people as victims of circumstance and oppression, and doubt whether individuals can climb without governmental help. My own analysis using 2005 survey data from Syracuse University shows that about 90 percent of conservatives agree that “While people may begin with different opportunities, hard work and perseverance can usually overcome those disadvantages.” Liberals — even upper-income liberals — are a third less likely to say this.

So conservatives are ignorant, and ignorance is bliss, right? Not so fast, according to a study from the University of Florida psychologists Barry Schlenker and John Chambers and the University of Toronto psychologist Bonnie Le in the Journal of Research in Personality. These scholars note that liberals define fairness and an improved society in terms of greater economic equality. Liberals then condemn the happiness of conservatives, because conservatives are relatively untroubled by a problem that, it turns out, their political counterparts defined.

Imagine the opposite. Say liberals were the happy ones. Conservatives might charge that it is only because liberals are unperturbed by the social welfare state’s monstrous threat to economic liberty. Liberals would justifiably dismiss this argument as solipsistic and silly.

There is one other noteworthy political happiness gap that has gotten less scholarly attention than conservatives versus liberals: moderates versus extremists.

Political moderates must be happier than extremists, it always seemed to me. After all, extremists actually advertise their misery with strident bumper stickers that say things like, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention!”

But it turns out that’s wrong. People at the extremes are happier than political moderates. Correcting for income, education, age, race, family situation and religion, the happiest Americans are those who say they are either “extremely conservative” (48 percent very happy) or “extremely liberal” (35 percent). Everyone else is less happy, with the nadir at dead-center “moderate” (26 percent).

What explains this odd pattern? One possibility is that extremists have the whole world figured out, and sorted into good guys and bad guys. They have the security of knowing what’s wrong, and whom to fight. They are the happy warriors.

Whatever the explanation, the implications are striking. The Occupy Wall Street protesters may have looked like a miserable mess. In truth, they were probably happier than the moderates making fun of them from the offices above. And none, it seems, are happier than the Tea Partiers, many of whom cling to guns and faith with great tenacity. Which some moderately liberal readers of this newspaper might find quite depressing.

Arthur C. Brooks is the president of the American Enterprise Institute and the author of “The Road to Freedom” and “Gross National Happiness.”

by on Jul. 9, 2012 at 6:50 PM
Replies (31-40):
asfriend
by on Jul. 10, 2012 at 9:49 AM
2 moms liked this

That is with a doubt completely false, but continue with your closed minded thinking, it probably suits you.
Hey you didn't write anything to Brad Pitts mom did you?

Quoting littlelamb303:

Liberals tend to be more educated(sorry folks, but it is a proven fact, not an opinion) and see things the way they actually are. They tend to be open minded and realize that there are major flaws around us, some that can't be fixed so easily.  Republicans are very closed minded individuals who only see in b/w.  I know, I grew up in a repub family and the majority of my friends and family are all repubs.  I changed parties a long time ago. I am not the happiest person on earth either, as I question EVERYTHING and I am also skeptical about everything.  When I was shown the bible as a child, I questioned it.  I have been like that from day one. This article tends to tell the truth, unfortunately


asfriend
by on Jul. 10, 2012 at 10:05 AM

We live in a society, I think having social constructs is a given.

Quoting mehamil1:

And all of that either/or stuff is a social construct. 

As it stands, there is no equal oppotunity so of course there will not be an equal outcome. 

Quoting asfriend:

I think some people miss the nuance of created equal, equal in opportunity, versus equal outcome.

If everyone is wealthy, then no one is wealthy. If everyone is beautiful then no one is beautiful, if everyone is tall no one is tall.

If everyone is a winner, no one is a winner,
There must be losers to have a winner.
Equal start, not equal finish.
Quoting mehamil1:

Then the constitution is meaningless. Well, it was created by rich white slave owning men so that's a given. 


Quoting asfriend:

Or, we are not stupid enough to think that it is possible or even desirable for everyone to be equal in society.

Quoting Kate_Momof3:

Yep. I agree:

 “Liberals may be less happy than conservatives because they are less ideologically prepared to rationalize (or explain away) the degree of inequality in society.” 


 


 


mehamil1
by on Jul. 10, 2012 at 10:07 AM

Dur Dur Dur? *drools*

Quoting asfriend:

We live in a society, I think having social constructs is a given.

Quoting mehamil1:

And all of that either/or stuff is a social construct. 

As it stands, there is no equal oppotunity so of course there will not be an equal outcome. 


asfriend
by on Jul. 10, 2012 at 10:13 AM
1 mom liked this

surprised

You were being sarcastic, followed by me being sarcastic, followed by I dunno.

The problem is that it takes a bright and curious mind to get sarcasm, and some others probably took it as it was written.

Thanks for the compliments - hope they don't draw a crap storm from some people.

umbrella

Quoting rccmom:

Probably something similiar. If I am not mistaken, Asfriend is playing. I actually really like her. She is pretty honest, sarcastic as all get out, and often funny. Jesus usually spoke with people where they were at, and He probably understood both my sarcasm and intent in my post. So, don't worry, but thanks for your concern! 

Asfriend, if you weren't playing, then I am sorry. I really do like you! 
 

Quoting imamomzilla:

 Ouch.

WWJD?

Quoting rccmom:

Well, you can't stop something, unless you have started something, but I don't expect conservatives with their limited IQs to understand such nuances.

Quoting asfriend:

Too bad that you couldn't have stopped before you got started.


Quoting rccmom:

Strangely enough, I remembere another study that showed people of higher intelligence tend to be less happy, and it just so happens another study showed Liberals were on average more intelligent than conservatives. Hmmm...maybe that's your answer right there.


Or maybe we should stop all these silly studies of trying to prove one side gives more, is smarter, or is more happy, and etc.. 


 

 

 


asfriend
by on Jul. 10, 2012 at 10:14 AM

Is that an "of course"?

Quoting mehamil1:

Dur Dur Dur? *drools*

Quoting asfriend:

We live in a society, I think having social constructs is a given.

Quoting mehamil1:

And all of that either/or stuff is a social construct. 

As it stands, there is no equal oppotunity so of course there will not be an equal outcome. 

 


mehamil1
by on Jul. 10, 2012 at 10:15 AM

You know it baby!

Quoting asfriend:

Is that an "of course"?

Quoting mehamil1:

Dur Dur Dur? *drools*

Quoting asfriend:

We live in a society, I think having social constructs is a given.


4kidz916
by Gold Member on Jul. 10, 2012 at 10:31 AM
2 moms liked this

I think the whole article is silly.  There are happy people on both sides and unhappy people on both sides and I don't think being conservative or liberal has anything to do with it.  It's all about attitude.  I would consider myself poor by what I make but I have a good life and my kids are healthy so I'm happy.  There are really rich people that have everything and they're still miserable.  It's just about attitude, IMO.

gammie
by on Jul. 10, 2012 at 10:36 AM
1 mom liked this
I can see this as a fact just by being in the streest with liberals.

As you all know I have out in Denver with Occupy Colorado, most of the liberals that voted for Obama are unhappy with their lives they want the government to do more. They believe we should pay for their health, food, shelter and med.care. And it's Okay to steal from the hard worker.

Now we the people who are there for Ron Paul are very happy because we know we have to work for are own happiness, we want more freedom to work.

You have to get out there to see the facts, I do not need a study I can see it.
DawnFanberg
by New Member on Jul. 10, 2012 at 10:37 AM
3 moms liked this

I'm not conservative or a liberal, I must be the happiest person on Earth. ;p

rccmom
by Gold Member on Jul. 10, 2012 at 11:14 AM
1 mom liked this

Maybe you saw Asfriend's quote back to me. She understood the sarcasm. After all, she was the one I was speaking with, and I think we both have a deep appreciation of sarcasm. I am careful with whom I am sarcastic with on here because so many people don't get sarcasm in writing, without the tone of voice to identify it.

I do really appreciate your concern though over having polite and non-hurtful dialogue. Keep up the good work!

Quoting imamomzilla:

 OIC.

Quoting rccmom:

..."I find it less damaging to the representation of Jesus than a lot of other posts on here by "Christians." She posted such language out of frustration and anger, but other posts seem to be designed to be deliberately deceitful, hurtful, and much more damaging to the image of Christianity."

Quoting rccmom:

Probably something similiar. If I am not mistaken, Asfriend is playing. I actually really like her. She is pretty honest, sarcastic as all get out, and often funny. Jesus usually spoke with people where they were at, and He probably understood both my sarcasm and intent in my post. So, don't worry, but thanks for your concern! 

Asfriend, if you weren't playing, then I am sorry. I really do like you! 
 

Quoting imamomzilla:

 Ouch.

WWJD?

Quoting rccmom:

Well, you can't stop something, unless you have started something, but I don't expect conservatives with their limited IQs to understand such nuances.

Quoting asfriend:

Too bad that you couldn't have stopped before you got started.


Quoting rccmom:

Strangely enough, I remembere another study that showed people of higher intelligence tend to be less happy, and it just so happens another study showed Liberals were on average more intelligent than conservatives. Hmmm...maybe that's your answer right there.


Or maybe we should stop all these silly studies of trying to prove one side gives more, is smarter, or is more happy, and etc.. 


 

 

 

 


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