Are conservatives really happier than liberals?

In happiness, Uncategorized, what i'm reading on March 7, 2009 at 7:52 am

Some interesting research about political motivation and happiness from Syracuse University. Prof Arthur Brookes claims in his book Gross National Happiness that conservatives report significantly higher levels of personal happiness than liberals.

Increased happiness in conservatives is not necessarily down to their individual politics, but is linked to contributing life factors. They are are statistically more likely to be married, go to church, and be optimistic about their future – things we know boost personal happiness. For liberals, the rates of happiness are somewhat lower. The author suggests that the liberal equity agenda, while completely honorable, takes a stronger personal toll and contributes to a life with more questions asked than answered. Liberals are more likely to have less smooth home lives, when compared to their conservative counterparts. There’s an interview with the author here.

It’s important to remember most studies like this reporting levels of happiness have collected data via personal response questionnaires. So, in fact it’s more a case of conservatives reporting that they are happier, rather than actually being happy in themselves. For me, this research perhaps means two things:

-1- Conservatives say they are happier than liberals. Is that because they truly are happier (they do appear to have very settled lives) or is it because they feel they ought to say they are happier and living the American dream?

-2- The research shows that liberals report lower happiness levels because they have a more challenging lives. They are less likely to have as much family stability and they have that oh-so cumbersome liberal agenda to which they feel they ought to contribute. It might just be me, but I think living a life with an open liberal agenda that doesn’t mean being tied down to a family, a dog and a church sounds rather fun.

Aristotle asks us whether we would rather be a pig satisfied or a man dissatisfied? To be honest, as much as I crave the perceived stability and wealth of the right, I think I’d rather be a dissatisfied liberal than a satisfied conservative. But that’s just me.


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