Psychologists at New York University say they've found the answer to why people with right wing political views are happier than left-leaning liberals (as previously indicated by survey research). In short, conservatives are less upset by inequality because they believe people generally get what they deserve in life.
Jaime Napier and John Jost gave questionnaires to over a thousand Americans and found that conservatives were happier than liberals even after controlling for the possible influence of demographic differences, such as in wealth and religiosity. Crucially, they found that at least some of the difference in happiness was explained by the conservatives being less bothered by inequality.
A second study found a similar pattern in nine other countries, including New Zealand, Norway and Spain. This time the greater happiness of conservatives was associated with their meritocratic beliefs - for example, their belief that, in the long run, hard work usually brings a better life.
A final study showed that liberals in America have grown less happy as inequality has risen, whereas the happiness of conservatives has remained unaffected. This appears to confirm Napier and Jost's contention that right wing political beliefs can guard against the potentially upsetting effects of inequality.
The pair concluded that beliefs can have a protective effect on happiness in other walks of life too. "Research suggests that highly egalitarian women are less happy in their marriages compared with their more traditional counterparts apparently because they are more troubled by disparities in domestic labour" they said.
Napier, J.L., Jost, J.T. (2008). Why Are Conservatives Happier Than Liberals?. Psychological Science, 19(6), 565-572. DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02124.x
Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.
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