WaPo: Conservatives Are Happier than Liberals

The worldview of conservatives and Republicans makes them a happier lot than liberals and Democrats, even in a year when the Republican “candidate is sinking in the polls,” the Republican “president plumbs historic depths of popular scorn” and the Republican “free market squeals for intervention” according to a story in the October 24 Washington Post.

The story, A Happiness Gap: Doomacrats and Republigrins takes an initial head-scratching approach to reporting that conservatives – once again, and regardless of what country they live in – are happier than liberals even in a year marked by economic gloom and doom and a year that seems “so rosy for Democrats.”

Staff writer David Montgomery spices up his reporting on the latest happiness poll from the Pew Research Center by including some partisan jibes from right and left about happiness.  Unsurprisingly the Democrat comes off sounding a little more…. Unhappy.

"I'm very happy," says Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and a Republican. "When I was 12, I realized the world was not organized around my desires and wishes. The problem with guys on the left is they never figured that out at age 12. And they're just irritated the world is not organized around their vision. This makes them grumpy."

Chris Lehane doesn't sound grumpy. The Democratic consultant is on the phone from San Francisco: "My guess is if [Pew] checked the cross tabs out in California, we're all pretty happy out here. The wine is still good, the food is fresh, the people are beautiful."

But seriously, says Lehane, if Republicans are more happy, it's because they care less.

"The typical Republican is happy coming home to a 62-inch television, pulling out a fine bottle of cognac or Scotch, putting his feet on the table and enjoying the fruits of his labor, but not caring what's going on in the world outside their living room . . . and their gated community."

After imbibing in a little ideological tit-for-tat Montgomery gets to the heart of the poll that has been consistent in showing conservatives and Republicans are a happier lot since it was first conducted in 1972.  And it doesn't just apply to American conservatives. Turns out those traditional values of belief in God, marriage, hard work, perseverance and personal responsibility are indeed, the keys to happiness.  Montgomery wrote, “Pew found that Democrats are more likely to say that success in life is mostly determined by outside forces. Republicans lean toward thinking that success is determined by one's own efforts.”

The study does identify a series of characteristics found in many people who call themselves happy. Good health is a key factor. Marriage and religion are big, too, and so is wealth. (If money doesn't buy happiness, it appears to help with the down payment.)

When you control for all the other variables, Taylor says, a Republican is 13 percent or 7 percent more likely to be very happy than a Democrat, depending on which regression analysis model you use.

It turns out the happiness gap is not just an American phenomenon. In country after country, happiness studies find that "conservatives" are happier than "liberals."


"The question is not whether Republicans are happier than Democrats, or conservatives are happier than liberals," says Arthur Brooks, the incoming president of the American Enterprise Institute and author of "Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America -- and How We Can Get More of It." "That's unambiguously true. The question is, why?"

Brooks says a lot hinges on the answer to this question: Do you believe that hard work and perseverance can overcome disadvantages? Conservatives are more likely to say yes.

Montgomery also notes that, according to the poll, “extremists are happier than moderates” and that “hard-core liberals are the happiest liberals and hard-core conservatives are the happiest people on Earth.”  Which means Rush Limbaugh is always going to be happier than Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews combined.  And that is something to smile about.  J

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.