Monday, April 02, 2007

Politics of Happiness

Why has the US always had a big political divide? One reason might be that people have fundamentally different psychological outlooks on life. From working with juries, trial lawyer John Hinderaker has noted that "conservatives (Republicans) are happier than liberals (Democrats)." Polls consistently show that Republicans are happier than Democrats. Some say that "[t]his could be explained by the fact that our current rulers are Republican" and that makes Republicans happier. However, the poll results say that Republicans have been consistently happier than Democrats over decades regardless of which party is control. Another proposed explanation is that Republicans are happier only because they have more income. Pew research, however, says their poll results disagree:
But even this explanation only goes so far. If one controls for household income, Republicans still hold a significant edge: that is, poor Republicans are happier than poor Democrats; middle-income Republicans are happier than middle-income Democrats, and rich Republicans are happier than rich Democrats.
Pew research used multiple regression analysis to control for all the available factors and found that, other things being equal (i.e. controlled for), such as health, income, faith, and marital status, Republicans are still happier than Democrats.

Polls, of course, cannot address causality. So, they cannot answer whether being happy make a person more likely to be a Republican, or whether being a Republican make one more likely to be happy.

One can speculate on other affects. For example, it seems reasonable to me that depressed people are more likely to be believe in the truth of disaster scenarios than happy people. This may explain why depressed Democrats have much stronger convictions that, for example, Iraq, Afghanistan, and global warming are all disasters.

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