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May 25, 2009

Why Conservatives Are Happier Than Liberals


We have seen the studies showing conservatives to be happier than liberals (or alternatively, Republicans to be happier than Democrats). Pew Research Center polls have shown such a trend going all the way back to 1972. But what has not been widely discussed is the reason for such a difference.


It is not that Republicans have the power – they are happier regardless of who controls the White House and Congress. It is not that they make more money – anticipating this knee-jerk reaction from the poll’s disbelievers, the pollsters adjusted for income and still found that rich Republicans are happier than rich Democrats, poor Republicans are happier than poor Democrats, and so on.


Adjusting for other factors yields the same results: Even if we find a Republican and a Democrat sharing the same exact age, education level, race, gender, income, and marital status, the Republican would still be 13 percent more likely to be very happy. In fact, party affiliation (which, to a great degree, is reflective of ideological affiliation) is more predictive of happiness than race, ethnicity or gender.


So what accounts for the difference?


An obvious factor is that conservatives tend to be more religious. Faith makes people happier for many reasons that cannot be exhausted in this space. When individuals are not doing well, faith gives them hope (as cheap as this word has become recent months). For example (concededly generalized), when conservatives lose an election, they still know that God is the ultimate powerbroker. But when liberals lose elections, they have lost it all because government means everything to them. Further, faith makes individuals certain that they are living for a purpose – they are not stuck struggling to find “meaning” to their lives.


But putting faith aside, conservatives are happier because they know what they want to achieve. Morally, they are more likely than liberals to believe in “right” and “wrong,” and less likely to embrace “moral relativism” – indeed reconciling such moral relativism with what is often the obviously “right” action is usually quite emotionally tortuous.


More tangibly, conservatives know that they have the solutions to problems. They know that free trade is the best way to pull people out of poverty. They know that cutting taxes increases employment and prosperity. They know that guns save lives. They know that sticking a tube in an unborn baby’s skull and vacuuming the brains out amounts to the taking of human life. They know that no one should be “managing” the economy, because never has the economy performed as well in history as when it had been “unmanaged.” In short, they know what policies to pursue, and win or lose, they have a clear conscience. And certainty brings comfort and happiness.


Conservatives also have a greater tendency to believe that they have control over their own lives. Pew’s numbers show that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to believe that success in life is mostly determined by outside forces (a golden rationale for self-victimization). And it is a certainty that individuals would be happier if they thought they had control over their own lives than if they thought that their lives’ outcomes were dependent on the whims of politicians in Washington.


Like conservatives, liberals know that there are problems and wish to fix them, but unlike conservatives, they do not know what the solutions are. They think, for example, that poverty and unemployment would be decreased through some sort of government intervention or activism, but they have no idea what exact program would be successful (in part because none has ever worked before) – so they keep trying, and are stuck with uncertainty regarding the outcome of the actions they promote.


Imagine a broom – and our society is sitting at the meeting point between the broom handle and the broom head. Conservatives want to push in one direction, and toward its only possible point – the tip of the one handle. Liberals want to push in the opposite direction, but there are an infinite number of tips, and they will never be confident about the one they pursue.


Liberals always compare America to an ideal utopia. And because of that, America is always going to come up short for them. They believe that there is no way that this world could exist without there being a perfect solution for everyone on it. And they will always feel guilty about failing to find the perfect solution that they are convinced is out there, and will fail to be happy as a result.


Conservatives, on the other hand, recognize that there are scarce resources, and that although the world cannot be perfect, the closest it will come to perfect is by allowing the free market to allocate those resources in a manner that will increase prosperity for the most number of people, as we have witnessed through factual history and empirical evidence. They are happy when they succeed. And if they fail in enacting their policies, they are still happy to have been on the correct side, and they sleep soundly at night.

© 2009 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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