Who’s Happier: Conservatives or Liberals?

BY Paul Solman  November 17, 2011 at 6:01 PM EDT

Paul Solman at OccupyDC

By Diane Lincoln Estes.

Just a quick note on a story we’re working on about the link between one’s political beliefs, attitudes towards inequality, and personal happiness.

Studies by the Pew Research Center and the General Social Survey, among others, have shown that on average conservatives say they are happier than liberals.

American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks

We recently interviewed social psychologist Jaime Napier, who did a fascinating study on why that might be. Her work suggests that liberals have a harder time rationalizing economic inequality than conservatives.

We also talked to American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, who has written extensively on the subject. He argues conservatives are happier because they are more optimistic than liberals. Liberals doubt whether individuals can climb without government help, he says, but conservatives believe in each individual’s ability to get ahead on the basis of achievement.

Paul Solman interviews an occupier at OccupyDC.

The other day we polled people at both ends of the spectrum about how happy they are and why. In the morning we talked to folks at Occupy K Street, part of the Occupy DC movement. That same afternoon, we headed to AEI to hear what staffers there had to say. As you might have guessed, we got very different takes. Stay tuned for the results.

This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown- NewsHour’s blog of news and insight. Follow Paul on Twitter.

Photos, from top to bottom: Paul interviewing American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, and two protesters at Occupy D.C. All photos by Diane Lincoln Estes.