Republicans are Happier

The Pew poll mentioned below confirms a longstanding trend: Republicans say they are happier than Democrats. This year, 45% of Republicans said they were “very” happy as opposed to 29% of Democrats. That’s a big gap! Here’s the the 30+ year trendline from Pew:

This stability is interesting in part because, I take it, that the demographic composition of Republican and Democratic voters has changed not insignificantly over the last 30 years. Is that right? Anyway, what accounts for Dem.-Rep. gap? Well, it’s not income. Republicans report themselves as happier at all points on the income distribution, as this Pew graph shows:

So what’s the deal? Here’s the Pew folk

[The regression] analysis shows that the most robust correlations of all those described in this report are health, income, church attendance, being married, and, yes, being a Republican. Indeed, being a Republican is associated not only with happiness, it is also associated with every other trait in the cluster.

Clean-livin’ Christians are more likely to be in good health, go to church, be married, and vote Republican.
What doesn’t the study mean? In today’s Colorado Springs Gazette, hometown paper of the Focus on the Family folk, I am quoted thus:

Does membership in the GOP really make people happy? Probably not, said Will Wilkinson, who studies happiness for the Cato Institute. The bliss is probably connected to some other facet of life that also inclines people to be Republicans, he said.

“People might read that and say, ‘I’d like to be happy, maybe I should be a Republican.’ It definitely doesn’t mean that,” Wilkinson said.

Sorry Dobsonites!

Assuming that the entire Dem.-Rep. difference doesn’t disappear when controlling for demographic variables, what psychological traits would you guess predict both higher self-reports and Republicanism?

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center