Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Conservatives Happier Than Liberals

While the title is just the conclusion, the article in LiveScience (hattip: Holy Hyrax) is a bit outrageous in how it is presented. The lead:
Individuals with conservative ideologies are happier than liberal-leaners, and new research pinpoints the reason: Conservatives rationalize social and economic inequalities.
Wow, nice. The article much later expands on this to explain what that means, but the tone has already been set:
To justify economic inequalities, a person could support the idea of meritocracy, in which people supposedly move up their economic status in society based on hard work and good performance. In that way, one's social class attainment, whether upper, middle or lower, would be perceived as totally fair and justified.
I've decided to rewrite the piece with the opposing slant just to show what it reads like:
Individuals with conservative ideologies are happier than liberal-leaners, and new research pinpoints the reason: Democrats are unable to comprehend social and economic inequalities.

Regardless of marital status, income or church attendance, right-wing individuals reported greater life satisfaction and well-being than left-wingers, the new study found. Conservatives also scored highest on measures of comprehension, which gauge a person's ability to understand the reasons for and existence of inequalities.

The comprehension measure included statements such as: "Due to a myriad of differences in circumstances which may or may not be able to be addressed, some people have more of a chance in life than others to achieve certain things," and "This country would be better off if we worried less about how equal people are."

To understand economic inequalities, a person would point to the idea of meritocracy, in which people move up their economic status in society based on hard work and good performance. In that way, one's social class attainment, whether upper, middle or lower, would be understood as totally fair and justified.

If your beliefs don't justify gaps in status, you could be left frustrated and disheartened, according to the researchers, Jaime Napier and John Jost of New York University. They conducted a U.S.-centric survey and a more internationally focused one to arrive at the findings.

"Our research suggests that inequality takes a greater psychological toll on liberals than on conservatives," the researchers write in the June issue of the journal Psychological Science, "apparently because liberals lack the comprehension that would help them frame inequality in a positive (or at least neutral) light." Liberals tend to believe that the differences among individuals in terms of intelligence, effort, what choices they make in life, or other factors should not matter. They feel that regardless of those differences, all people should end up with everything in equal amounts and at similar levels.

The results support and further explain a Pew Research Center survey from 2006, in which 47 percent of conservative Republicans in the U.S. described themselves as "very happy," while only 28 percent of liberal Democrats indicated such cheer.

The same rationalizing phenomena could apply to personal situations as well.

"There is no reason to think that the effects we have identified here are unique to economic forms of inequality," the researchers write. "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 labor."

There we go. Much better.

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