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Jokers to the right: why conservatives are happier

Although Labor supporters may find it easier to smile since the impending election became something of a contest in June, Coalition voters may always have more to smile about. It has nothing to do with…

When you’re smiling: research has previously shown the more politically conservative you are, the happier you tend to be. But how true is it? AAP/Alan Porritt

Although Labor supporters may find it easier to smile since the impending election became something of a contest in June, Coalition voters may always have more to smile about. It has nothing to do with poll results: research suggests that the more politically conservative you are, the happier you tend to be.

Given the mischief that a political operator - scrupulous or otherwise - could cause with this claim (particularly under the guise of scientific respectability), two questions are important. How strong is the evidence that conservatives are happier, and why are conservatives actually happier?

Before probing further, caution is required. In this research, “happiness”, “satisfaction with life”, and “subjective well-being” are used interchangeably, without discussion about if and how they differ (and other studies have examined the more general concept of “psychological well-being”).

Furthermore, political ideology may be too complex to place on a unidimensional continuum: where does the person who is socially progressive but economically conservative fall on this spectrum, for instance?

How strong is the evidence?

A 2006 survey by the Pew Research Centre in the US aroused interest in the ideology-happiness link. In this survey, 45% of Republicans reported being very happy compared to 30% of Democrats. This result was followed up in three peer-reviewed articles. The first found evidence of the effect with a large sample but failed to report a measure of its magnitude.

In two subsequent articles, the correlation between ideology and happiness ranged from .08 to .18. In other words, ideology explains at most about 3% of the variation in happiness. Using conventional standards, a researcher in a fit of generosity may label this “small, possibly approaching medium”.

In one sense, these small effects are intuitive: of all the factors that might influence your happiness, is ideology really that important?

Why are conservatives happier?

Let’s assume that the ideology-happiness association exists and is worth discussing further. Why might someone with conservative views be happier?

For starters, conservatives tend to be wealthier, more religious and married. Ideology itself may have little to do with happiness: rather, it is these characteristics associated with it that are important. In this sense, small observed ideology-happiness associations are surprising. If ideology is a proxy for these other variables, shouldn’t the ideology-happiness link be stronger?

The original research article proposed several other explanations for the link, but found strongest evidence for system justification. According to this explanation, conservatives are better able to justify current economic, social and political systems and the inequality they entail. In others words, conservatives tend to have greater capacity to rationalise the rich-poor divide.

For this reason, system justification has also been labelled opposition to equality. The two subsequent articles, however, found other variables to be better predictors of happiness than system justification, including religiosity, moral attitudes and number of group memberships.

Another alternative explanation for uncertainty over system justification is that each of the six studies measuring system justification in these three articles measured it differently. One study asked for responses to statements like: “our society should do whatever is necessary to make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed”, and another that: “group equality should be our ideal”.

The former statement is arguably about equality of opportunity and the latter about equality of outcome. Even someone with liberal views may favour providing the disadvantaged with the opportunity for positive outcomes over providing the outcomes themselves. And even a staunch conservative who opposes handouts to the disadvantaged may support greater opportunities for the disadvantaged to succeed.

So whether or not opposition to equality is the reason conservatives are happier may depend on whether we are talking about equality of outcome or opportunity.

The ideology-happiness link in Australia

No Australian research data on system justification and the ideology-happiness link has been published. Might we expect Australia, with its strong tradition of egalitarianism, to be different to other countries? Perhaps not.

In his recently-released book Battlers and Billionaires, Labor MP Andrew Leigh presented data indicating that although Australians generally support greater equality, Labor voters tended to favour redistribution of income more than Coalition voters (note that this is more about outcome than opportunity).

So even in Australia, conservatives are generally more comfortable justifying inequality. But are they are happier as a result? Or are they happier, but for some other reason?

Perhaps Australian conservatives perceive Labor governments as symptoms of “temporary electoral insanity” (to quote former Liberal senator Reg Withers) and are happy knowing that sanity will eventually prevail. And would a Labor victory in next month’s election weaken the ideology-happiness link? Perhaps not – research in other countries suggests that conservatives are happier than liberals irrespective of party in power.

Or perhaps it is the case that Australians, with our history of relative political apathy, are more easily able to detach emotional states from political views.

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117 Comments sorted by

  1. Janeen Harris

    chef

    If conservatives are happier it's probably because they are more self- righteous and judgmental. Nothing like a sense of superiority to make a person smug and self-satisfied.

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    1. Janeen Harris

      chef

      In reply to John Crest

      As I said, smug and self-satisfied. Lots of people think they are right. Often they are wrong about it.

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    2. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      Hmm,

      I would have said that if progressives are unhappier it's probably because they are more self- righteous and judgmental. They are outraged that the world is not organised more to their requirements.

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    3. Janeen Harris

      chef

      In reply to John Crest

      Typical stuck up, self righteous conservative. If I don't follow your beliefs I must be a feral. You don't survive in this industry as long as I have by not showing respect for the food you serve. However I have chastised staff for exactly the type of disgusting behavior you mention. It was back in the late eighties, when the Victorian liberal party removed a lot of our protections regarding pay and conditions.

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    4. Ronald Ostrowski

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      Janeen, I must disagree with the contention that these folk are happy at all. I think conservatives (if that is what we have to call these boorish middleclass welfare addicts and fundamental anti- science crowd) tend to be very angry and spiteful. Just listen to their acid spitting phone calls on scream radio. I was in Canberra when they marched in to demand an immediate election. I saw their hateful signs behind Tony Abbott. They are not happy at all. As for me I am depressed that I have to cop their smug self-righteousness based on lies. I would contend that there are few happy folk in this country of any political persuasion at this point in time.

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    5. Robert Tony Brklje
      Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      Ego demands the expression of happiness as a sign of victory regardless of the actual emotions being felt. Reality here, people who do actually feel 'happiness' as a regular emotion (actually specifically happiness, not other emotions often falsely associated with happiness ie victory with a humiliating defeat for those considered to be inferiors not happiness simply egoistic gratification and frustration easement) are very unlikely to be conservatives.
      So asking the question of conservatives is…

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    6. Janeen Harris

      chef

      In reply to Ronald Ostrowski

      Very true Ronald. I would love to ignore politics but I can't help myself. As an Australian, I have to accept the fact that they are in it for themselves, not me, you, or anyone else. It's a pitiful game of egos and when push comes to shove Australia is irrelevant.

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    7. Janeen Harris

      chef

      In reply to Robert Tony Brklje

      Are people in tune with their feelings? I don't think it's acceptable is it? A bit too feminine and weak. Smug self-satisfaction is what is left when genuine emotion is not allowed. Happiness is, as pointed out, reliant on separating yourself from the unhappy. Hence conservative, take care of yourself, don't ask me for anything, smaller government, irresponsible conservatives.

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    8. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Ronald Ostrowski

      Well aren't you the little charmer? You easily support the author's contention. You don't seem the slightest bit happy and you have the great leader at the helm?

      Maybe a bit of lightening up would put a smile back on your face.

      You could at least try and do what conservatives do and make the most of an undesirable outcome. September is coming.

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    9. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      I don't think I have ever met a happy environmentalist. At any time, at any place, there is always some yellow throated, bat-warbling throstle bird in danger of the Giai raping plutocrats. They have so much to care about. It's no wonder they are perpetually sad.

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    10. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Mark

      Something tells me you haven't spent a great deal of time with many environmentalists - I am quite sure you have never met me - coz I tend to remember hostile people. Yep, I found your sarcasm quite unnecessarily nasty as there is evidence to see that humans are impacting the environment for the worse and this does make me sad. That you had to make up a name of a bird to use for mockery when there are so many endangered flora and fauna, makes you a sad person.

      If conservatives are so happy? Why don't they show it?

      Where to find happy environmentalists? Out of doors watching sunsets, sitting by rivers, hiking (not motoring) through the highlands, breathing fresh air (you should try that) and generally being happy in our natural element.

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    11. Venise Alstergren
      Venise Alstergren is a Friend of The Conversation.

      photographer, blogger.

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Perhaps they are resenting the fact that under a Liberal National Party coalition what little they have seen of the beauty of Australia will, under a LCP coalition, cease to exist.

      Our childrens' children will have to go to art galleries to find what Australia looked like before the loggers, the fisheries that mine fish, the continual expansion of coal mines whose side product belches grey into a once blue sky. The animals that have become extinct, the silence of a no longer audible bird life; all to be replaced by Maccas in the hills and endless soul-destroying concrete houses marching to the sea.

      But, still you're right, who wants live animals and birds when robots are so cute?

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    12. Laurie Forde

      Retired Business Owner

      In reply to Janeen Harris

      That's it. As well as the fact that conservatives like Murdoch own the means of communication in our society and keep telling conservatives that they are right.
      The annoying thing though is that when things go wrong for conservatives they are the first to put their hands out for assistance from the public purse.
      eg no tax for religious organisations, drought & flood relief, private school funding, private health subsidies, etc etc.

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    13. Tracy Heiss

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Ronald Ostrowski

      What about we social progressives, but economic conservatives? Your stereotype is rabid.

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    14. Dan Costa

      Lecturer and Researcher in Psychology at University of Sydney

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      I think Tracy's point, as stated in the article as well, is that a single continuum probably doesn't adequately capture the political views of many people. To read comments in response to news articles it may appear that most people can easily classify themselves as left or right, but for some people it's more complex. I can think of at least a few politicians who may be considered either conservative or liberal depending on whether you're referring to their social or their economic views.

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    15. Laurie Forde

      Retired Business Owner

      In reply to Tracy Heiss

      you can't be an economic conservative and social progressive. Economic conservatism , if you mean market driven, inevitably leads to social injustice.

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    16. Ian Rudd
      Ian Rudd is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired accountant & unapologetic dissident

      In reply to Dan Costa

      There are many strands on the continuum (I continue to call it that for want of a better word) between progressive (left) and conservative (right) and of course most people have different degrees of conservatism along each strand. It would be interesting to examine the various strands and see how they might be correlated with each other within a society.

      But as I noted there are times when choices have to be made between "conflicting" priorities. In Australia what the values of particular politicians might be, at least within the two big parties, counts for little since they seem obliged to follow the party line.

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    17. Robert Tony Brklje
      Robert Tony Brklje is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      I was specifically stating that as a human being, happy is a narrow range of brain chemical states shared by 'normal' human beings. The same for all species shared emotions.
      Not all humans are capable of a full range of emotions, there are many who can recognise happiness who can not actually feel it, much as being colour blind.
      Those who most feel happiness recognise that emphatically it is shared and to feel it full value you must share it.
      Let's face it how can conservatives ever feel happy, when the term by which they define themselves is a lie, conservatives do not really seek to conserve anything, they are all about exploitation, exploit resources, exploit the environment and of course exploit everyone including each other. Conservatives are not conservative they are exploiters, there is never happiness in exploiting others, just shallower more egoistic emotions.

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    1. Peter Campbell

      Scientist (researcherid B-7232-2008)

      In reply to Peter Campbell

      Damn, lack of edit function. I just made the conservatives into polytheists with an errant 's'.

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    2. Janeen Harris

      chef

      In reply to Greg Young

      Didn't the leader of the franchise say you can't serve god and mammon? Someone needs to remind Pope Abbot and his cronies, along with the republicans in America, the catholic church and most of Christianity.

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    3. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Greg Young

      Stole my words, you did, Greg.

      I was still asleep when you posted this morning - not lazy just not exactly as healthy as I aspire to be.

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  2. Barry McGovern

    logged in via Facebook

    I've read published research from overseas that suggests political conservatives are also more likely to be overweight and have a lower IQ, (which ties in with higher religiousity). Perhaps the conservatives three word electoral slogan should simply be "Fat, Dumb, Happy"

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  3. Steve Davis

    Brian Surgeon

    So far all I can do is agree with the other comments. When people are OK enough with the obvious problems we are facing to support a political party that is only going to exacerbate them, then just about anything will make them happy.

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    1. Dan Costa

      Lecturer and Researcher in Psychology at University of Sydney

      In reply to Steve Davis

      Note that the simplifying assumption in the article is that Labor = liberal and Coalition = conservative. Research in the US has suggested, however, that even within parties there appears to be a happiness gradient, e.g., more conservative Democrats tend to be happier than more liberal Democrats. Not sure if this holds in Australia.

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  4. John Crest

    logged in via email @live.com.au

    I really like this article - very interesting.

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  5. Sean Lamb

    Science Denier

    I think the less political you are, the happier you are likelier . Most politically involved people - left and right - seem consumed by rage.

    Is someone seriously suggesting that those Tea Party nutters are happy?

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    1. Dan Costa

      Lecturer and Researcher in Psychology at University of Sydney

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Actually Sean, there is a suggestion that people at the extremes tend to be happier, perhaps because they think they have the world figured out. The Napier and Jost article cites research stating that conservatives tend to be lower on need for cognition - that is, desiring simple answers and enjoying thinking less. Perhaps the differences in this variable are not so much between conservatives and liberals but between extremists and moderates. Pertinent to the current issue is that this need for cognition concept was not found to explain the ideology-happiness link.

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    2. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Dan Costa

      People at the extremes may have the world figured out but it doesn't mean they are happier.

      Try hanging out on any websites where left or right hang out and I tell you they are just throbbing with rage.
      Catallaxy Files for the Right
      Independent Australia for the Left.

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    3. John Schomberg

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Dan Costa

      If we allow ourselves to assume that those at 'the extremes' are so because they have developed an unnatural level of self-assuredness - irrespective of political ideology - then it would seem logical that they would score higher on the surveys. You learn not to equivocate when you're a zealot. 'Am I happy? You betcha!'

      I have trouble responding to a shop assistant when they ask me, 'How are you, today?', let alone answering a survey on happiness . . .

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    4. Ian Rudd
      Ian Rudd is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired accountant & unapologetic dissident

      In reply to Dan Costa

      What is an extremist liberal? For that matter what is a liberal? I see myself, at least in this country as being an extremist but a progressive one, meaning I am unbending in my commitment to social justice, environmental sustainability and peaceful co-existence. I'm not sure there is such a thing as being moderate in these commitments.

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  6. Gordon Smith

    Private citizen

    My understanding in respect to wealth is that the highest income group in Australia based on voting pattern were those who voted for the Green Party.

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    1. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Gordon Smith

      Best educated => highest earning potential
      Best educated => can make their own minds up
      Best educated => more likely to see past the bollocks.

      You say they're also more likely to vote Green?

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    2. Gordon Smith

      Private citizen

      In reply to David Arthur

      Hi David - the point I was asking was that the article suggested that conservatives were more wealthy and that may be a contributing cause to happiness.
      That seemed to be contradicted by my understanding that the Greens have a higher average income than both Labour and Liberal voters.
      I was not making any value statements but was seeking clarification.

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    3. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Gordon Smith

      Thanks for that, Gordon.

      I see that my response to your query, on the other hand, could be read as so clouded over with value statements as to offer no hope of clarification.

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    4. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Gordon Smith

      Wealth may have accumulated over several generations (provided the family wastrels have been dealt with appropriately?). Such wealth could engender a certain complacency.

      Individual income, on the other hand, may be indicative of individual non-complacency.

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  7. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    'The original research article proposed several other explanations for the link, but found strongest evidence for system justification. According to this explanation, conservatives are better able to justify current economic, social and political systems and the inequality they entail.'

    Sorry Dan, are you referring to the 2006 Pew Research Centre study? Is it possible to point to where system justification is mentioned? (I must be blind - I can't see any reference to this.) Thanks!

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    1. Dan Costa

      Lecturer and Researcher in Psychology at University of Sydney

      In reply to James Jenkin

      James, that's perhaps poor phrasing on my part (and not entirely complimentary to Pew) - by "research" article I meant the original peer-reviewed article, Napier & Jost (2008).

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  8. Dennis Alexander

    logged in via LinkedIn

    This study would only have anything to say if, and only if, it adjusted for the long-standing association between religion and happiness: I would need convinving that the implied factor analysis adequately covered that base withing reasonable confidence limits. Otherwise, on the justifiable the presumption, given the US sampling, that conservatives include a disproportionaletly large number of religious people, it says absolutely nothing about polititical ideology and happiness as such: i.e. it is a complete furphy and not worth reading.

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    1. Dan Costa

      Lecturer and Researcher in Psychology at University of Sydney

      In reply to Dennis Alexander

      I think this is a little too dismissive. I did make the point that the ideology-happiness link may be explained by religion (and many other factors), and these studies do find that conservatives are more religious, but evidence for religiosity explaining the ideology-happiness link is mixed. To call it a complete furphy seems a little harsh. These studies pose legitimate research questions and attempt to answer them with data.

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    2. Troy Barry

      Mechanical Engineer

      In reply to Dennis Alexander

      This comment seems to display unfamiliarity with the sort of multivariate regression analysis that comes up with the "3% of happiness is explained by political orientation" result. E.g. a sample of Conservatives might be 15% more happy than Progressives, with 5% explained by religious attachment, 5% by economic condition and 3% by political orientation. The confusion of factors is separated in the analysis.

      Notably the April 2012 paper found greater personal agency, more positive outlook and a generalised belief in fairness as contributors to conservative happiness (in addition to the religion-associated factor).

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    3. Dan Costa

      Lecturer and Researcher in Psychology at University of Sydney

      In reply to Troy Barry

      The point that should not be lost is that this 3% is not based on multivariate analysis, but on zero-order correlation. So before we even begin taking religiosity, wealth, access to health services, etc, into account, the ideology-happiness link is (arguably) weak.

      In line with Richard H's comment below, because significance testing with large samples was employed in these studies, the researchers saw a "significant" ideology-happiness association and jumped, perhaps with glee, to possible explanations. If they had taken a purely effect size approach (if such a thing existed in practice), they would likely have looked at this correlation and said something more like "Well I guess that failed". Of course, one of these approaches to the results is more likely to be published than the other.

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    4. Dennis Alexander

      logged in via LinkedIn

      In reply to Dan Costa

      Hi Dan, my point is that unless the religion factor is properly adjusted for, your point about the effect size (and not having looked at the study, the confidence intervals) is the most useful thing about the study you are examining. And anybody doing a study of US conservatives and happiness knows about the religious elements in both sides of the equation (conservatism and happiness), so not properly accounting for it could be construed as deliberate mal-design. Boiling it down: your article good, subject study furphy.

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    5. Dan Costa

      Lecturer and Researcher in Psychology at University of Sydney

      In reply to Dennis Alexander

      Fair point Dennis, although I prefer to assume that the research is conducted in good faith (no pun intended) and ignorance, rather than deliberate mal-design. Still, the role of religiosity is acknowledged in the three articles I cited, even if not in the way that we think is most appropriate.

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  9. John Turner

    Retired metallurgist/plant manager

    The claims in this article about conservative happiness is not what the 2011 German study of OECD societies found, or an earlier study comparing the USA states.
    The OECD study found the countries with the best social wellbeing ratings were Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and The Netherlands. The best Anglo heritage country was Canada at eighth. Australia was a miserable 21st and that bastion of conservatism, the USA, was 27th only ahead of Greece, Chile, Mexico and Turkey.
    The New York Times report is at; http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/29/opinion/blow-americas-exploding-pipe-dream.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha212
    and the actual German study is at
    http://www.sgi-network.org/pdf/SGI11_Social_Justice_OECD.pdf
    The NYT summary chart would be worth reproducing on this site. I have it as a file.

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    1. Dan Costa

      Lecturer and Researcher in Psychology at University of Sydney

      In reply to John Turner

      Interesting data, and there are other data strongly suggesting the link between levels of inequality and various measures of well-being. It is, however, a different question to the general question addressed in the research I've cited in the article. The country-level economic data and the individual-level psychological data are complementary, not contradictory. In fact there is evidence that the "happiness gap" between liberals and conservatives is more extreme in countries with higher inequality.

      Also note that social well-being is not (necessarily) the same as happiness, subjective well-being or satisfaction with life. Inconsistent use of terms describing the outcome is a problem in this research.

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  10. Richard Hockey

    logged in via Facebook

    "In two subsequent articles, the correlation between ideology and happiness ranged from .08 to .18. In other words, ideology explains at most about 3% of the variation in happiness."
    I would describe this correlation as nonexistent to tiny.
    see also
    http://www.analytictech.com/mb313/correlat.htm

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    1. Dan Costa

      Lecturer and Researcher in Psychology at University of Sydney

      In reply to Richard Hockey

      Because these studies rely on (or, perhaps more appropriately, are allowed to rely on) large samples and null hypothesis significance testing to generate conclusions, they will detect small effects. What is missing in this research is the qualifying statement "although these effects are significant, they are small". Of course, this problem isn't excusive to this research, but that's another conversation.

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    1. Edwina Laginestra
      Edwina Laginestra is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Jack of all trades

      In reply to Rory Cunningham

      I thought there would be more comments like yours Rory. When I did philosophy years ago, our lecturer said if you wanted your kids to be happy, then breed morons. I always found if you didn't think about things happening around you and challenging your (or others) beliefs then you were probably content. The thinkers tended to wonder whether "this was it" or were the "commonly accepted theories actually held". Entertaining and thought-provoking article.

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  11. Geoff Taylor

    Consultant

    Does this satisfaction with the present explain Mr Abbott's reluctance to outline his vision for Australia on the ABC this morning, saying he just wanted others to realise their own visions?

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  12. Emile Jansen

    architect at Jansen Design & Architecture

    There's a fundamental flaw in this discussion and argument: it assumes there are fundamental differences in the positions of both parties. To me they each spout the platitudes about same stuff and merely tint it differently for public consumption. the days of Labor being quite differentiated from Liberal/CP disappeared about the time of Hawke.

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  13. Peter Hull

    Research Officer

    Clearly happiness and sense of humour are very different things, given Alan Jones' comments about Julia Gillard's father which the Liberal audience found amusing and the outrage from conservatives about comedian Barry Humphries joke about Gina's hole.

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    1. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Peter Hull

      Dammit, shoulda delayed hanging out laundry (and sleeping in), once again I have been gazumped.

      I am interested in why there are more progressive comedians than conservatives?

      True, there are a few Right Wing comedians - I can't recall any just right now, but could easily reel off a list of Left wing comedians.

      Anyone wishing to contest this argument - I am fully prepared to assemble above mentioned list.

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    2. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      My understanding is that there aren't many clowns who aren't driven by rage.

      Perhaps Sean Lamb could contribute to this thread?

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  14. Peter Ormonde
    Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Farmer

    How does the capacity to delude oneself figger in this concoction of happiness?

    So for example, Tony's latest exposition of economic theory: '"The great thing about a market economy is everyone can succeed at the same time."

    Now folks who believe such nonsense happily will believe anything at all. They don't actually live on the same planet as the rest of us. And they love those handy self-serving homilies and aphorisms ... no need to think or look closer.

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    1. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to John Phillip

      Far be it from me to quibble with Mr Bono on matters economic or historical but this is not quite true ... despite 'Bloody Sunday'...

      China? 20% of us ... doing something but not quite capitalism - certainly not socialism either ... god knows what ism they're dancing to.

      Might be that there is a process where individual selfinterest and unfettered exploitation is a stage in accumulating capital, but history demonstrates that the benefits of that accumulation are not distributed without political…

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    2. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, I agree with each of your points up until you assume that they are representative of capitalism in its entirety. There are many fantastic achievements that have been fostered and enabled by the (a) capitalist mosel which rewards effort and initiative. If you're going to (rightly) bag the Ginas and Ruperts of this world you have to at least give a nod to the fact that in every economic/political system there are those who take whatever advantage they can get to dominate others. Exploitation is tnot the exclusive domain of capitalism.

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    3. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to John Phillip

      I don't think any ism will rid us of exploitation and self-interest John - education helps, developing a long-term view, understanding complex societies and our inherent interdependence. But there will always be selfish greedy bastards. It's in the genes... or maybe in breastfeeding or how we are taught to see ourselves and the world... there for the taking. We can but try.

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    4. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to John Phillip

      John

      "Exploitation is tnot the exclusive domain of capitalism."

      True, there is no perfect economic system. However, that doesn't mean we have to settle for unregulated capitalism. Healthy competition is positive - but for competition to work we need balance and given simple human greed this needs to be encouraged through appropriate levels of regulation.

      "If it's legal, it's acceptable" is the "greed is good" mantra of the 21st C.

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    5. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Dianna, the problem arises with the regulation component. As you've pointed out 'if it's legal, it's acceptable' is open to abuse. This same problem exists with regulation - all it does constrains the successes of the bulk of people who do do the right thing and give the exploiters another hurdles to either leap or sidestep.

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    6. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to John Phillip

      Sigh.

      So if there is any chance of exploitation, we should do away with any regulation?

      Is that what you are saying?

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    7. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to John Phillip

      Geez ... wavelength? ..... all I'm getting is static lately.... I blame the election .

      But it is a curious assumption lurking in the notion of this study and I think it has to do with this 'happiness' business ... in particular whether 'happiness' comes from stuff and personal comfort or whether hapiness comes from social engagement - doing something for and with others.

      What do they mean by happiness? Or do they mean 'contentment' or 'satisfaction' or something a bit more physically tangible…

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    8. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      No, not at all. There is a place for well thought out and researched regulation. Too often it is put in place as a knee jerk response to a problem that may or may nbot actually exist. Regulation has become the first port of call and this only leads to a race to the lowest common denominator - a 'dumbing down' if you will.

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    9. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Very true. The correlation seems to be rather doubtful. I always thought happiness comes from within. That old coffee mug saying had it pretty pat - happiness is the the ability to change what you can, accept what you can't and know the difference. It's also got to have something to do with being comfortable in your own skin.

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    10. Dan Costa

      Lecturer and Researcher in Psychology at University of Sydney

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, the concepts are certainly poorly defined. As I mentioned, "happiness", "satisfaction with life" and "subjective well-being" are used interchangeably in the research. I believe this is one of the primary shortcomings of the research (and is not limited to the ideology-happiness link). As for "measuring" happiness, you can either ask someone how happy they are, thus allowing them to impose their own definition on the concept, or defining it yourself and generating questions that fit your definition. Both approaches have limitations.

      As for causality, the statement "conservatives are happier" makes no causal commitment whatsoever. The authors of these studies have, commendably, avoided this suggestion, because there is no evidence for it.

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    11. Venise Alstergren
      Venise Alstergren is a Friend of The Conversation.

      photographer, blogger.

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      I used to believe that education was the only way the poverty stricken could climb out of the rough.
      Wrong. We need only to know how Australians-supposedly educated- swallow Rupert Murdoch's lies, distortions and his vice-like hold on their brains.

      This is a society where everyone who owns a computer can access news which will give them another slant on an upcoming election. Do they? Bollocks!

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    12. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to John Phillip

      John

      I think I know why you are so grumpy - all to do with your conservative ability to ignore facts; it has gone off the rails, completely, there is no kinder way to say this, your comment below:

      "Regulation has become the first port of call and this only leads to a race to the lowest common denominator - a 'dumbing down' if you will."

      John, Australia commenced deregulating the market in the mid 1980's, accelerated through the 1990's and has been steadily setting industry free to set their…

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    13. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Dianna Arthur

      Thanks for the reply, Dianna. It the over-regulation of the small end of town which has made the economies of scale so profitable for the big players. The compliance measures are such that only large conglomerates can afford them which has had the effect of crushing competition into the monopoly/duopoly situation that we now see. I agree with you that corporate capitalism has flourished, because they can afford the cost of business and have more freedom to gain from the various monetary systems. Please don't think I am a fan of Goldman Sachs and what they represent. I am not. I just disagree with the that capitalism is all bad. The example I used for Peter of Bono's spiel was just one of the reasons why I think that, for all its faults, it has more to offer than other systems. To my way of thinking, socialism, at its very best, simply equals mediocrity and the suppression of progress.

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    14. Ian Rudd
      Ian Rudd is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Retired accountant & unapologetic dissident

      In reply to John Phillip

      John, I'm not so sure the bulk of people do the right thing. The big corporations certainly don't. Witness Chevron in Ecuador, Shell in the Niger Delta, Monsanto worldwide, BHP in the south west WA biodiversity hotspot (huge mine site abandoned devastating Hopetoun and Raventhorpe) and many, many more. They corrupt governments including the US and our own. all in the name of the profit (pun intended).

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    15. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      I'd disagree that the examples listed are representative of anything other than corrupt individuals manipulating things to their own advantage. Having said that, such behaviour exists in all political/economic systems - not just capitalism. I would argue that the greater the power of the state, the greater the potential for harm to the citizens of that state by virtue of the power that such states offer that type of individual.

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    16. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to John Phillip

      Doesn't really correlate John this size of government and corruption, John. Still it'd make fighting corruption very simple wouldn't it?

      Here's a list of countries in order of government spending as a % of GDP ... http://anepigone.blogspot.com.au/2008/03/government-spending-as-percentage-of.html.

      Now who do you reckon is top of the list ... Russia, China or the USof A? ... all wrong - Iraq. Hmmmm ...

      OK what's the smallest government around ... Afghanistan!

      In other words John…

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    17. John Phillip
      John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Grumpy Old Man

      In reply to Peter Ormonde

      Peter, I'll take the time to heck out the links you provided. Thanks. I was thinking more of the link between the size and 'authority' of government than the size of public spending per se. More generally there seems to be this perception (belief?) among many respondents here that capitalism is somehow the root of all evil. I was just pointing out that it's not. The greed is a human condition, not necessarily inherent in a socio-political system. Some have complained about the oppression caused by life within a capitalist system but fail to acknowledge the oppression and sheer genocide we have seen in recent history in socialist and fascist regimes. In other cases (the former USSR) individual greed overcame the ideology to cause a flaccid non-productive police state that failed its citizens at every turn.
      If you've read this, thanks for listening. I'll get back to you on the links tomorrow. Cheers

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    18. Peter Ormonde
      Peter Ormonde is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Farmer

      In reply to John Phillip

      'The greed is a human condition, not necessarily inherent in a socio-political system.'

      I think you're onto something there John. And the critical factor is having a social and political system that sort of 'manages' greed... keeps it within useful limits. This seems to be what the Chinese are playing with a bit.

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  15. Dave Satterthwaite

    logged in via Facebook

    When studying people who benefit from inequality, research indicates that those most comfortable justifying inequality are happier?

    What's next - research indicating water is wet?

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    1. Dan Costa

      Lecturer and Researcher in Psychology at University of Sydney

      In reply to Dave Satterthwaite

      Dave, the difference is that the evidence that water is wet is quite compelling. What seems to you an obvious link between justifying inequality and happiness does not have strong empirical support. Perhaps this is the pertinent question: why isn't the link stronger?

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    2. Dave Satterthwaite

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Dan Costa

      Are you sure it doesn't have strong support? Your research indicates that conservatives benefit from greater wealth, are more likely to be religious (and although you did not clarify, I guarantee this is in terms of a socially dominant religion not a fringe cult) and more likely to be married (having their rights enshrined in law as opposed to other sections of society). In each of these cases, they are clear beneficiaries of inequality. Given that you have provided no evidence to indicate that they are wracked with constant guilt over this (and the fact they are so apparently happy indicates they are not) then it appears there is indeed plenty of empirical support.

      If you can provide evidence that these factors are not based in benefiting from inequality, or that conservatives suffer terrible guilt pangs, then I'd be happy to revise that assertion.

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  16. Haydn Rippon

    Queensland University of Technology

    At a policy level the differences between Labor and Liberal are evident but not vast.

    It also depends on the type of conservative, which ranges from libertarians, religious conservatives to nationalists.

    Nationalists may be deeply unhappy about large scale foreign ownership in Australia, mass immigration, and economic globalisation, though they may appreciate the vigorous attention paid to irregular arrivals by boat.

    As a group they tend to be socially conservative, economically protectionist…

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  17. Ian Rudd
    Ian Rudd is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Retired accountant & unapologetic dissident

    I question the assumption that in Australia that the Liberals are conservative and Labor progressive. Both are conservative to almost equal degree although of course many Labor supporters are essentially progressive. What beats me is that these people continue to support a party that increasingly embrace conservative neo-liberal ideology.

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    1. Dianna Arthur

      Environmentalist

      In reply to Ian Rudd

      Colour me equally puzzled, Ian. ATM on AIM there is a massive campaign against the Greens being conducted by Labor voters. To the point where the far more progressive policies of the Greens are completely derided, the call for humane treatment of refugees ignored, as for climate change? Apparently Rudd's EST is adequate.

      http://victoriarollison.com/2013/07/27/an-easy-life/

      Apparently these Labor voters see any divergence of policies by the Greens as some kind of treason to Labor. They cannot see how far towards the neo-con agenda Labor has fallen.

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  18. Rex Gibbs

    Engineer/Director

    Please - The Moderator needs to step in. The comments are a slanging match between a hateful bitter foodie and a bunch of people just pushing her buttons for the sake of it.

    For cryin' out loud the statistical analysis says 'conservative' Vs 'Progressive' explain 3% of the happiness score. I would think broader labels should be used eg liberal/libertarian socially conservative people vs old style socialist, collectivist, protectionists who carefully conserve priveledged union won 'rights' but perhaps the Orwellian Stalinist communist party label of 'Progressives' is worn as a badge of honour like the term comrade used by party faithful behind closed doors. If I want a Y9 hormone rampant brain brainless debate - Ill get my daughter to bring her classmates home.

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  19. Pat Moore

    gardener

    Questions of degrees of happiness at this juncture of the human predicament are totally irrelevant. Are we happy listening to the tune of the brass band on the Titanic while we rearrange our deckchair? And no doubt the foxes/dingoes, currently in political charge of the chookhouse, are happier than the chooks. An elitist sense of social entitlement and a fantasy of being made in a god's image to boot could possibly provide a deluded sense of happiness but one would require a severely closed mind…

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  20. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    If you're satisfied with things just the way they are, then you're not too likely to bother striving for change, but you are happy with your world as it is.

    If you're dissatisfied with things as they are, you're more likely to be striving or hoping for change, and more likely to be discontented with your world as it is at present.

    Doesn't the definition of conservative include satisfaction with things the way they are? How do Keef & Mick feel about this?

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  21. John Phillip
    John Phillip is a Friend of The Conversation.

    Grumpy Old Man

    Couldn't the happiness linked to conservatives be more about satisfaction with their lot - that they see things as either good, ok or not too bad. Progressives, on the other hand, might see the faults in the 'system' (adopt a really broad definition in this context) thus leading to higher levels of dissatisfaction with the status quo.

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  22. Venise Alstergren
    Venise Alstergren is a Friend of The Conversation.

    photographer, blogger.

    Perhaps conservatives are happier because of their belief that they were born to rule? With that sort of mentality they must perceive themselves to be 'marching on the spot ' when the public turn against them. This is opposed to the Labor Party who feel 'WE'VE LOST,' when they lose.

    Conversely when the Liberals win power 'The balance has been restored'. This is the opposite to the Labor Party who could be forgiven for thinking they've just endured trench warfare.

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    1. Rex Gibbs

      Engineer/Director

      In reply to Venise Alstergren

      Venise, Maybe you've proven the (weak) premise of the article. You really are a very unhappy little vegemite.

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  23. Tracy Heiss

    logged in via Facebook

    Wow. 'Conservatives' versus 'Progressives'. Did I just wake up in the USA? There are myriad composites on the scale...what I find ironic is the vitriol to be found here. I'm a 'socially progressive, economically conservative' type. I worry that no one will hate me! Or...everyone will.

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