As Loyal Readers™ well know, the Palace houses the world’s most renowned research program dedicated to the study of Conservative Personality Disorder. Something that has really puzzled us over the years is that research purporting to examine the relationship between political orientation and happiness has consistently revealed conservatives as being happier than liberals. This finding not only runs counter to a lifetime of personal experience that shows unequivocally that “happy conservative” is an oxymoron, it’s also counterintuitive on its face. I mean, do abortion clinic protestors strike you as happy? How about right-wing Christian clergy? Gun fetishists? Pundits like Limbaugh, Hannity and Coulter? White supremacists? Birthers? War Hawks? I’m not just talking about raging spittle-flecked tirades, either. It is self evident to me that a truly happy person would have exactly zero interest in policing, bullying and dominating other people by any means available. And yet conservatives do all of this, and they do it in the service of getting other people to conform to their (fictional) orderly little black-&-white world—and judging and punishing them harshly when they don’t. Either way, it vindicates and validates their (also fictional) moral superiority. They are nothing if not narcissists: everything is about them, all the time, including a gay couple’s marriage five states away, and what goes into or comes out of my vagina. Have you ever met a happy narcissist? No, you most certainly have not.
But you know what? If the science says it’s so, I just have to chalk it up to another head scratcher and move on with finding the cure. (For conservatism—not for happiness. Obviously.)
Now comes an article by Rachel Feltman in The Washington Post:
When asked if they’re happy, political conservatives are more likely to say yes than liberals. But a new study suggests that liberals might be the happier bunch — and conservatives might just want to look good.
Researchers believe that conservatives may have a reputation for being happy because it’s in their nature to talk themselves up.
You don’t say.
It turns out that all of the academic research on the so-called “happiness gap” was based entirely on self reports. Self reports! This is the sign of sheer incompetence: as any serious student of conservatism can tell you, conservatives are infamous for self-reporting lies. (See e.g. church attendance, or Bill O’Reilly’s entire career.) But this new research took a different approach:
Led by Sean Wojcik, a doctoral student in psychology and social behavior at the University of California at Irvine, the experiment analyzed photos and language analysis from the LinkedIn and Twitter profiles of those identified as either liberal or conservative.
“Common sense would dictate that if you want to know how happy someone is, you can ask them,” said Peter Ditto, UCI professor of psychology & social behavior and co-author of the paper. “But what do you do if someone says they’re happy, but doesn’t act that way?”
My point exactly.
Indeed, Ditto and Wojcik found more genuine smiles (as measured by standard facial analysis) and more positive language in the Web trail of liberals, even though other members of that group self-reported as less happy in the very same study.
The reason, they say, is that political conservatives have a tendency to self-aggrandize. When they compared happiness self-reports with tests that measured a tendency to enhance one’s better qualities, they found that the happiness gap could be explained by a self-enhancement gap. In other words, liberals were being more honest about their personal pitfalls.
Huh. Well what do you know.