Judging by how conservatives and liberals respond to things - even each other - it would appear that conservatives are, indeed, happier than liberals. It even appears to extend to the millions who watch them on Fox or listen to them on the radio: A recent study says that conservatives are happier than liberals -- and have more friends.
According to a recent article, "the study, published in the journal Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, is the work of Jacob Vigil, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico. He gathered over 700 undergrads at a university in Florida in the months before the 2008 election and had them fill out a survey. The survey touched on, among other things, the students' pasts, their political affiliations, the number of friends they have, and how much they trusted them and, by extension, the rest of society.
"Vigil then had the participants look at photos of strangers' faces, whose expressions ranged from joy to sadness, fear to surprise, disgust to anger. Vigil asked the participants to interpret, among other things, how threatened they felt by the faces. He then took that data, and that which came from the completed surveys, and reached his conclusions about who's happy and why."
Conservatives, the study says, feel more threatened by the people they don't know. But -- conservatives end up having a larger circle of friends than liberals. Vigil found that conservatives have a looser definition of friendship, one that doesn't rely as much on the sort of intimacy that liberals favor. Conservatives tend to find friends who will help them -- socially, and especially professionally -- so conservatives end up searching out more people. Their suspicions of who is threatening them may not be completely accurate, but it does serve a purpose: It thins the ranks of potential friends and leaves the conservatives happier with whom they decide upon, because these friends can help them.
Liberals, meanwhile, are more miserly -- a trait backed up by other studies on charitable giving in which conservatives tend to give two times more to charity that liberals. Liberals have fewer friends, the study finds, after computing the data from the surveys, because many of them are victims -- victims, often, of childhood trauma, or the perceived victims of a cruel adult world. They sympathize with people more than conservatives, the surveys found, but liberals don't befriend as many people, because they are wary of trusting them. In societal terms, this often means liberals, while they feel for others, are less apt to get personally involved to do anything to help. This also explains why liberals are more into victimhood, while conservatives tend to be more optimistic and self-reliant.
Vigil says that whether one is a liberal or conservative, "it's all about our capacity for trustworthiness." If conservatives aren't threatened by you, they tend to like you, whereas liberals don't seek out new people, even though they have greater compassion for them. Though they have greater compassion, Liberals are more likely to want others to take action rather than get personally involved -- which also indicates why they give less to charity. They feel more for victims, but prefer to have others do something -- often, that is the government.
Another recent study shows that conservatives have been happier than liberals at least these past 30 years. A third study finds that regardless of who holds political power, people who have more money, and worship a god regularly, "tend to be happier," write Paul Taylor, Cary Funk and Peyton Craghill of the Pew Research Center. To be happy, it would seem -- and many a liberal will be dismayed to know that George Will may have understood this first -- it is not enough to simply commiserate with society, as liberals do. You need to try and be more a part of it.
In reading about these studies, it is easier to understand why liberals want and need bigger government and higher taxes. They want to end victimhood, but they do not want to get personally involved, instead prefering government to take care of it.
I have also concluded from all this that the world would be far better off if liberals would get past the victimhood mentality and get more personally involved in life. Then they, too, could be happier -- and have a larger circle of friends.