Happiness and the Political Spectrum

US Centric like most of the data anywhere on the net, but worth reading nonetheless.

Conservatives Are Happier Than Liberals. Discuss. – Freakonomics – Opinion – New York Times Blog

• In 2004, 44 percent of respondents who said they were “conservative” or “very conservative” said they were “very happy,” versus just 25 percent of people who called themselves “liberal” or “very liberal.” (Note that this comparison uses unweighted data — when the data are weighted, the gap is 46 percent to 28 percent.)

• Adults on the political right are only half as likely as those on the left to say, “At times, I think I am no good at all.” They are also less likely to say they are dissatisfied with themselves, that they are inclined to feel like a failure, or to be pessimistic about their futures.

• It doesn’t matter who holds political power. The happiness gap between conservatives and liberals has persisted for at least 30 years. Indeed, the difference was greater some years under Bill Clinton than it was under George W. Bush. Democrats may very well win the presidency in 2008, and no doubt many liberals will enjoy seeing conservatives grieving out about that — but the data say that conservatives will still be happier people than liberals.

Several obvious reasons for the correlation spring to mind… conservatives tend to be richer and more successful socially (the obvious reason for that being, liberal economics stress graded taxes which place disproportionate burden on the rich;which is why, as a libertarian I’m “conservative” on most economic issues. However, there are a lot of studies that say the opposite,too, by considering the “social” liberals purely as liberals) and it’s fairly accepted that increased wealth /standard of living makes you happier. Then again, as one commenter mentioned, ignorance is bliss, and conservatives have a lower average IQ than liberals(its true, look it up! Also the surprisingly large gap between believers and atheists…at least in countries where they don’t force you to be an atheist, like China and the erstwhile USSR.) Another interesting take:

Interesting topic. Without delving into it too much, I would say conversatives have more reason to SAY they are happy, not that they ARE happy. If we assume most conservatives are also Christians, it is seen as bad form for a Christian to not be happy. On the other hand, liberals are honest enough to admit that things could be better.


My first thought is that by definition a conservative is someone who resists changes to the status quo. If they’d rather stick with the current system, then they must be at least satisfied with it, if not happy. Conversely, a progressive or liberal, is typically a view point where they are dissatisfied with the status quo, and would like some kind of change. So a study on happiness of the two view points seems like it does nothing more than confirms the general definition.

which also seems to make sense.Similarly,

Perhaps conservatives are more likely to believe that their path is self-made and a result of their own efforts, and therefore more likely to be happy with the results, whereas liberals tend to believe that society/government should be taking care of their needs/wants and therefore they’ve been “screwed over” and tend to be less happy?

and sadly enough, I concede the point.

I would like to see a correlation between levels of happiness and the political distribution along the
Nolan chart, which sees politics in 2 dimensions rather than 1 dimension. If anyone bothered to go through that Wikipedia entry on libertarianism, this is the standard chart that plots conservative and liberal viewpoints on 2 axes, social and economic. I think it would make a considerable difference if you found the marginal distribution from that rather than from the more direct survey. Also, something that tests happiness based on something other than self-reporting, to make sure you’re measuring real (as opposed to forced) happiness.

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