For the last several decades, numerous studies have emerged showing that those who identify as politically conservative are happier or more likely to be happier than those who identify as liberal.
While the “happiness gap” has previously determined the difference between how happy conservatives and liberals are, a new study shows that the gap may have been inaccurate all this time.
The study, conducted by Sean Wojcik, a doctorate student at the University of California, Irvine, focused on two distinct behaviors that most relate to being happy – smiling and saying more positive things. In order to identify which side of the political spectrum their participants were on, the researchers utilized photographs of elected officials along with large groups of people. The UC Irvine team used peoples' social media platforms, such as Twitter, to gauge their political beliefs and affiliations.
The researchers point out that in past studies, most scientists ask the participant’s more straight-forward questions such as “How happy are you?” However, Wojcik and Dr. Peter Ditto, a psychology and social behavior professor at the university, say that this style of self-reporting is flawed because people always tend to overreport postive characteristics about themselves -- be it happiness, calmness, intelligence or any other trait.
“If it’s real happiness, it should show up in people’s behavior,” said Ditto, according to the New York Times. “What our evidence suggests is that [past surveys are] limited to self-reports of subjective well-being.”
While Ditto’s idea may be correct in theory, other studies have proven the opposite results of the UC Irvine study. For example, in 2006 Pew Research completed a similar study focusing on the happiness of conservatives and liberals. In the study, it states, “Republicans have been happier than Democrats every year since the General Social Survey began taking its measurements in 1972.”
In terms of income and wealth, the Pew study said, “If one controls for household income, Republicans still hold a significant edge: that is, poor Republicans are happier than poor Democrats; middle-income Republicans are happier than middle-income Democrats, and rich Republicans are happier than rich Democrats.”
Ultimately, Ditto could not definitively say that liberals were happier than conservatives based on his research results.
“You get into sort of philosophical territory here. If you say that you’re happy, are you really happy? That’s where I think interesting future directions go,” said Ditto.
Recently, UC Irvine has been in the news for some controversial issues, namely banning the American flag on their campus because it's allegedly emblematic of colonialism.
The university’s student government voted to ban the flag, because “the American flag has been flown in instances of colonialism and imperialism,” according to a student at the university.
Photo Credit: uci.edu, Moyan Brenn/Flickr