Conservatives are Happier than Liberals, but Why? Political Ideology, Personality, and Life Satisfaction

Journal of Research in Personality 46 (2012) 127-146

20 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2013  

Barry Schlenker

University of Florida, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Department of Psychology

John R. Chambers

St. Louis University

Bonnie Le

University of Toronto - Department of Psychology

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

Political conservatives are happier than liberals. We proposed that this happiness gap is accounted for by specific attitude and personality differences associated with positive adjustment and mental health. In contrast, a predominant social psychological explanation of the gap is that conservatives, who are described as fearful, defensive, and low in self-esteem, will rationalize away social inequalities in order to justify the status quo (system justification). In four studies, conservatives expressed greater personal agency (e.g., personal control, responsibility), more positive outlook (e.g., optimism, self-worth), more transcendent moral beliefs (e.g., greater religiosity, greater moral clarity, less tolerance of transgressions), and a generalized belief in fairness, and these differences accounted for the happiness gap. These patterns are consistent with the positive adjustment explanation.

Suggested Citation

Schlenker, Barry and Chambers, John R. and Le, Bonnie, Conservatives are Happier than Liberals, but Why? Political Ideology, Personality, and Life Satisfaction (2012). Journal of Research in Personality 46 (2012) 127-146. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2239819

Barry Schlenker

University of Florida, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Department of Psychology ( email )

Gainesville, FL 32610-0496
United States

John R. Chambers (Contact Author)

St. Louis University ( email )

3511 LaClede Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63103
United States

Bonnie Le

University of Toronto - Department of Psychology ( email )

Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G8
Canada

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