Veteran centrist pundit Thomas B. Edsall writes in the NYT opinion section:
Conservatives Are Happier Than Liberals. Discuss.
Oct. 20, 2021
By Thomas B. Edsall
Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C., on politics, demographics and inequality.
Do liberals or conservatives experience higher levels of satisfaction, happiness or meaning in life? …
Two similarly titled papers with markedly disparate conclusions illustrate the range of disagreement on this subject. “Why Are Conservatives Happier Than Liberals?” by Jaime Napier of N.Y.U. in Abu Dhabi and John Jost of N.Y.U., and “Conservatives Are Happier Than Liberals, but Why?” by Barry R. Schlenker and John Chambers, both of the University of Florida, and Bonnie Le of the University of Rochester.
Using nationally representative samples from the United States and nine other countries, Napier and Jost note that they
consistently found conservatives (or right-wingers) are happier than liberals (or left-wingers). This ideological gap in happiness is not accounted for by demographic differences or by differences in cognitive style. We did find, however, that the rationalization of inequality — a core component of conservative ideology — helps to explain why conservatives are, on average, happier than liberals.
Napier and Jost contend that their determinations are “consistent with system justification theory, which posits that viewing the status quo (with its attendant degree of inequality) as fair and legitimate serves a palliative function.”
One of Napier and Jost’s studies “suggests that conservatism provides an emotional buffer against the negative hedonic impact of inequality in society.”
In addition, they argue that rising levels of inequality have “exacerbated the happiness gap between liberals and conservatives, apparently because conservatives (more than liberals) possess an ideological buffer.”
A very different view of conservatives and the political right emerges in Schlenker, Chambers and Le’s paper:
Conservatives score higher than liberals on personality and attitude measures that are traditionally associated with positive adjustment and mental health, including personal agency, positive outlook, transcendent moral beliefs, and generalized belief in fairness. These constructs, in turn, can account for why conservatives are happier than liberals and have declined less in happiness in recent decades.
In contrast to Napier and Jost’s “view that conservatives are generally fearful, low in self-esteem, and rationalize away social inequality,” Schlenker, Chambers and Le argue:
Conservatives are more satisfied with their lives, in general and in specific domains (e.g., marriage, job, residence), report better mental health and fewer mental and emotional problems, and view social justice in ways that are consistent with binding moral foundations, such as by emphasizing personal agency and equity.
Liberals, Schlenker and his co-authors agree,
have become less happy over the last several decades, but this decline is associated with increasingly secular attitudes and actions (e.g., less religiosity, less likelihood of being married, and perhaps lessened belief in personal agency).
They go on:
Conservatives generally score higher on internal control as well as the Protestant Work Ethic, which emphasizes the inherent meaningfulness and value of work and the strong linkage between one’s efforts and outcomes, and is positively associated with achievement. Liberals, on the other hand, are more likely to see outcomes as due to factors beyond one’s personal control, including luck and properties of the social system.
These differences have consequences:
Perceptions of internal control, self-efficacy, and the engagement in meaningful work are strongly related to life satisfaction. These differences in personal agency could, in and of themselves, explain much of the happiness gap.
Abundant social science evidence shows that people of strongly liberal/left politics, especially women, tend to have more mental health problems.
For example, in March 2020, Pew asked: “Has a doctor or other health provider EVER told you that you have a mental health condition?”
38% of “very liberal” women responded “yes” vs. 15% of “very conservative” women.
1/n Two interesting findings thus far from my analysis of Pew's March 2020 COVID-19 survey. First, white (and especially 'very') liberals are far more likely than all other ideological-racial subgroups to report being diagnosed with a mental health condition. pic.twitter.com/RynS9lk0jR
— Zach Goldberg (@ZachG932) April 11, 2020
One possibility is that their politics stem from rational self-awareness of their mental health challenges. It makes sense for people who understand that they are emotionally and cognitively fragile to vote for politicians promising to tax the healthy and strong more to pay for a stronger social safety net for the ill and weak like themselves.
On the other hand, cold-blooded rational self-awareness of the kind that built Europe’s 19th Century socialist movements would not seem to be a hallmark of today’s American left.
Perhaps, instead, the mental health issues drive the politics, that wokeness is the politics of female mental illness?
You have to admit, that would explain a lot about current events.