Why are liberals less happy than conservatives?
Ambivalence about marriage and the family is bad for mental health
Liberals, especially liberal women, are significantly less likely to be happy with their lives and satisfied with their “mental health”, compared to their conservative peers aged from 18-55.
This is the big takeaway from the 2022 American Family Survey, a striking new poll from YouGov and the Deseret News, which found that liberals are about 15 percentage points less likely to be “completely satisfied” with their lives.
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The survey goes on to find that liberals are about 18 percentage points less likely to be “completely satisfied” with their “mental health” than conservatives. But the problem appears to be especially acute for liberal women, who register the lowest levels of satisfaction with their lives and mental health. Indeed, only 15% of liberal women in the age group surveyed are “completely satisfied” with their lives, compared to 31% of conservative women; likewise, only 15% of liberal women are “completely satisfied” with their mental health, compared to 36% of conservative women.
Two family factors have a lot to do with this ideological gap: marital status and family satisfaction. Given that conservatives aged 18-55 are about 20 percentage points more likely to be married, as well as 18 percentage points more likely to be satisfied with their families, the lesson here is obvious. Marriage and family are strongly linked to happiness and to personal mental health in particular.
On the family front, conservative Americans (not politicians, admittedly) have a major advantage, in large part because they are more likely to embrace the family-first values and virtues that steer them towards wedlock and fulfilling family lives. This appears to be especially true here for conservative women, who report the highest levels of satisfaction with their family lives.
The problem facing liberals, then, is that too many of them have embraced the false narrative that the path to happiness runs counter to marriage and family life, not towards it. They think independence, freedom and work will make them happy, which is why significant portions of the popular media are filled these days with stories celebrating divorce and singleness. A recent story by Molly Smith in Bloomberg, for instance, falsely claimed that “Women Who Stay Single and Don’t Have Kids Are Getting Richer” (in reality, married mothers are richest) and spotlighted childless, single women who claim personal happiness: in the words of one, “I love my life and feel very fulfilled.”
The challenge for progressives is to understand and appreciate that these women are outliers. The secret to happiness, for most men and women, involves marriage and a life based around the family. The challenge for conservatives, of course, is to find new cultural platforms to communicate the value of marriage and family life to a young adult audience fleeing from the very way of life most likely to increase their odds of happiness.
Liberals would be a great deal happier if they didn’t sit on Twitter all day, engaging with toxic negativity. Then they could join the rest of us in more positive and optimistic attitudes.
Yes indeed, although the people you’re talking about aren’t actually liberals. They’re woke, i.e. the authoritarian pseudo-progressive usurpers of liberalism.
It’s annoying that we(sic) have adopted the negative language that plays in favour of the woke.
e.g. They are “liberals” – I don’t think so
e.g. “Progressives” not that either…
e.g. people who stick up for biology are “gender critical”
e.g reduced tax is “unfunded tax cuts” as opposed to “unfunded spending plans”
This matters, as the majority of the intellectual lazy constantly fall for this headline level deception and act accordingly.
Its vital that even the “labels” are fully pushed back against.
Liberals would be a great deal happier if they didn’t sit on Twitter all day, engaging with toxic negativity.
This raises an interesting question: what are these people going to do if Musk brings free speech to Twitter and they can no longer have their opposing debaters cancelled?
I often ask my liberal friends the same question. It never fails to raise a chuckle. “Great news – you must be happy, now that Dominick Cummings has finally gone?”. It never fails to completely sail over their head. Repeat ad nauseam, inserting whoever is the current hate figure responsible for all misery in the world : Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Priti Patel… As a former ‘liberal’ who grew out of itt, I can attest that they’re generally just incapable of celebrating good news. Perpetual misery absolves them of responsibility for whatever isn’t optimal in their own lives.
Ha! I do the same thing with a liberal friend who loathed Johnson, then berated Truss – asking him if he missed the chaos of Johnson. My mate is a very clever bloke, but loses his objectivity when discussing politics, which makes it easier to win debates. But it’s fascinating to see someone so clever, as many liberals no doubt are, have such intellectual blind spots.
On the eve of Brexit I ran into my former PhD supervisor, a very distinguished Professor of the Philosophy of Physics. When I told him of my intention to vote Leave because of immigration, he threw an absolutely hilarious toddler tantrum.
I didn’t even vote, but I get the same toddler tantrum from Remainers ( I presume) when I say we should have respected the referendum result and set about implementing Brexit ASAP, instead of wasting 3 years trying (disgracefully) to overturn the result, and/or trying to assuage the EU. (hopeless negotiating tactic!)
Nobody I know round here (NE Scotland) was worried about immigration, by the way, but had more general concerns about the EU, including but not limited to the CFP, but most of all, the conviction that we would never get another chance to leave, considering what had happened in Ireland and other countries. So it was a case of Now or Never.
Remainers really showed their ‘true faces’ in the aftermath of the vote (not all – I know some perfectly decent ones – but a significant proportion. Hilarious seeing some of the meltdowns on display. These people hate to be gainsaid).
and I honestly don’t think most leavers would have tantrums had the vote gone the other way (after all, we expected it to – I can still remember the feeling of unexpected exhilaration on waking up the day after the vote. Happy days).
There’s always a new bete noir for them, some great oppression that they are labouring under.
It would be equally interesting to graph how their perceptions of Michael Gove fluctuate.
Gove is a great example. I have a friend who is a Green party local councillor. (Actually a great bloke who really puts a shift in and does useful community work). When Gove was appointed Environment Secretary I suggested to him he must be delighted that the Tories finally appointed someone to that role, who wasn’t a climate change sceptic? Not only was he unable to muster any response but it was clear he had not noticed this minor fact.
‘They’re generally just incapable of celebrating good news’
One only has to look to the Guardian for proof of this. Resolutely pessimistic, even with good news. Manages to put a ‘we’re all going to hell in a handcart/most Brits are fascists/the UK is a racist etc hellhole’ spin on everything.
They also typically fail on the policy-related questions such as “give me any three policies that “x” suggested that you are against, and give me your alternative policies – with explanations for their superiority”
I struggle to find someone who can override this “ad-hominem” blind spot.
Perfectly put. Give me 5 reasons why you hate Donald Trump so much. Erm (incredulous silence). Wait for it. Wait for it…
“It’s more what they represent….”
I’m a fairly right wing Brit. I hate him because
1. His toddler tantrum narcissism is repulsive to many middle of the road people who might otherwise vote for a broadly conservative agenda.
2. It should be obvious to the GOP that the centre ground is the route to electoral success. His continued pulling it to the extremes is shedding support.
3. Any competent politician, seriously wanting to take on the blob, would know he’d need to build a good team around him. The revolving door at the White House repeatedly confirmed his inability to bring about any substantive change.
4. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and much of his business dealings have been suspect verging on illegal. Combined with multiple lies from his own mouth, the manifest lack of integrity is obvious.
5. The Brit in me is repelled by the grotesque, me, me, me histrionics (we like stiffer upper lips.) If there was any American in me I’d hate him for being a loser since (bar the Supreme Court, which was just lucky timing) his legacy was almost completely undone within weeks of Dementia coming to power.
It’s not just that conservatives are more likely to get married. It’s that getting married and raising children makes you finally grow up and become more “conservative”.
There nothing like being challenged by your own flesh and blood to puncture your left wing pieties.
It’s not that liberals don’t have kids and ‘grow up’. It is that they think that this is somehow not fulfilling.
Fewer of them have kids, then they have fewer kids, and have them later in life. And as you imply, think that this is betraying their lofty ideals.
They tend to have “possessions”, not kids.
I do think conservatives tend to be more settled and appreciate what they have, whether that be their family or even the society they live in. There is also an argument that decreasing levels of home ownership are a factor and that house prices (particularly for family sized homes) are hopelessly high for most. We can’t expect people to conserve things when they have nothing to conserve.
My four closest friends are educated upper-middle class. All are reflexively “liberal” even though they don’t actually live their lives that way. All are in stable marriages, with grown, successful adult children.
Every child is way more progressive than their parents. What is especially amazing to me is that five out of the eight children of these friends (friends who really loved parenthood, btw) have announced that they never want to have kids. Since they are in their late twenties to mid-thirties by now, I’d say they are serious about this.
Seems like most of their peers are also deciding to reject parenthood. Do they think that their parent’s generation were relentlessly brainwashed into having kids?
If (like many progressives ) you base your mental wellbeing on forcing others to act speak and think in accordance with your beliefs, you can expect to be less than satisfied with life.
Most people I know of a conservative persuasion are more concerned with the well being of their family and encouraging folk to do their best.
It used to be said that the Left were fueled by the politics of envy and persistent envy is unsettling. Having achieved many of the things the Left were envious of they have pivoted to the politics of concern for the ‘oppressed’. Persistent concern, switching from favoured group to favoured group is also unsettling.
Spot on – it’s like a big guilt trip for having a nice life, made more extreme by social media allowing them to identify causes to support. In the old days they’d maybe have gone to deprived locations and supported vulnerable people instead of promoting victim culture and state intervention.
PJ O’Rourke put it perfectly:
“At the core of liberalism is the spoiled child — miserable, as all spoiled children are, unsatisfied, demanding, ill-disciplined, despotic and useless. Liberalism is a philosophy of sniveling brats.”
I rather liked “The challenge for progressives is to understand and appreciate that these women are outliers.” Much as the challenge for Coca-Cola is to understand and appreciate that people would be healthier if they drank water!
Easy. Liberals have to expend so much energy to remind themselves to ignore reality and pledge fealty to an irrational ethic.
Occam’s razor: the simplest theory that fits the facts and explains a phenomenon is often correct.
Could it be that liberal women are unhappy because they are liberal? And the solution is as simple: to stop being unhappy, perhaps stop being a liberal.
People looking for somebody to marry may have already figured out that the unhappily neurotic — i.e. those who score highly in the ‘neuroticism’ part of the Big 5 Personality test — aren’t what you should be looking for. Being married to one of these people is one of the things that is known to make for a very unhappy marriage.
HA HA HA. I THOUGHT ONCE TRUMP WAS OUSTED THAT EVERYONE WOULD BE HAPPY. I LIVE IN DC AREA…..LET ME TELL YOU THESE LIBERALS ARE MISERABLE EVERYDAY. ITS REALLY SAD. LOL.
Which way round is it? Are they liberals because they are unhappy or are they unhappy because they are liberals?
I guess 5,000 years of history on our side has some merits after all.
Liberals?…. those who use the expression ” extreme right’ and are actually themselves National Socialists?….. Liberals who believe in free speech, and are deemed by ” liberals” to be ” fascists”….?
Hard to fight against the media machine…
There is nothing new here. Liberals have always believed that the only thing standing in the way of their envisioned utopia is the right mix of politics, policy and material in-puts. There is no meaning beyond these things. The stuff that has typically given human beings purpose and meaning – religion, tradition, heritage – are all things that should be overthrown by progress.
It is their belief that utopia is achievable which keeps them from ever being happy with what is, why they are incapable of celebrating progress. To allow yourself to be happy is to ignore that “there still remains injustice somewhere in the world!” Being miserable, in this context, is a virtue. It means you care.
At heart, liberalism is misanthropic. “If only for these humans, humanity would be able to get somewhere!” It’s really quite neurotic and miserable.
Another very important factor is the way conservatives and “liberals” see the world.
The leftist generally sees the world very negatively, it is always five to twelve on the Marxist catastrophe clock!
Be that climate change alarmism, the race fantasies of those believing racist police are murdering black people in the thousands, “misgendering” is literally murder or any of the other cultural marxist agendas that are currently ruining our societies.
The conservative on the other hand sees the good and the precious in our world and works towards preserving, conserving it, hence the name…
I think this fundamental difference between the two may be just as much or more the cause for the difference in happiness!
The view that everything is terrible, there is nothing to be thankful for, all institutions are fundamentally evil and exploitative and that the world is going to end, literally killing everyone, would surely even ruin an otherwise happily married person?!
Another positive correlation with human happiness, not mentioned here, is religion. Single people are less religious, and (I suspect) liberal single women least of all.
They worship rancid hairy boxes…..
Brad, this is true and accurate, and it needed to be said. This reminder of the ancient truth of human family existence is entrenched so deeply in our psyche–both individual and collective–that is easily overlooked.
Your exhortation here brings to mind the parable of the emperor–or Empess– who has no clothes. A child’s cry suddenly makes the forgotten truth obvious to all who are actually paying attention to our quality of life, not merely the push and shove of the politico/cultural world.
As a 71-year-old yank whose 65-year wife–an ICU Nurse– have raised three young ones from birth . . .your finding here is not only true, but also very well-timed.
I am a conservative who is trying very hard these days to lend support to some “liberal” causes that conservatives tend to overlook, such as the care and management of a proper Justice system, and worldwide effort to prevent our fragile planet from overheating.
Keep up the good work.
Very nice. But you lost me on the worldwide effort to prevent our fragile planet from overheating. Knowing how our planet came into being, the age of it, and the many cycles of ice and thaw it has gone through, do you honestly believe that humans can impact the temperature of the planet in any meaningful way?
Well, can you remind me of the last time there were more than 5 billion energetic and destructively minded humans on the planet? All looking to have two fossil-fuelled cars, four longhaulflight holidays a year and as much soyfed meat as they can get their teeth into, as soon as possible. Things have changed a bit since the last ice age.
Article leaves out key reason why young men are avoiding marriage like the plague. They are looking at heavily biased courts and laws favoring women. Both conservatives and liberals have contributed to making marriage a nightmare contract for men. Men continue to pay 97% of alimony and 95% of child support and women file for 95% of divorce cases. Yet conservatives continue to boast about how they are much happier staying married without doing anything to change marriage laws. If this attitude continues, marriage rates in western countries will plummet below 20% and conservatives will be as ‘sad’ as liberals
If I was a fat ugly lesbo, I’d be mad too!
Liberals think their lives could be perfect (if it weren’t for conservatives). Conservatives know that life will never be perfect, and so do not suffer from the same eternal frustration.
The entire social liberal project from Wilhelm Reich and Simone de Beauvoir onwards appears to be a complete bust.
Yes, there were abuses under the old system, but what we have now is worse. All we have done is privileged those whose natural tendency is not to have family against the vast majority who would normally thrive in a family but can’t even access a sexual marketplace that allows pair bonding. It’s materialist horror.
I didn’t quite expect the anti-Liberal outpoor this piece generated. In my book, a Liberal is not necessary leftist or ‘progressive’.. much less ‘Woke’. On the contrary, a classical liberal is anything but. However, and more important, I am surprised nobody mentions the confirmation bias this survey seems to reek of. If a person defines herself as a ‘Conservative”, she is fully aware that she is expected to have found fulfilment in the “Kinder, Küche, Kirche” Bermuda Triangle. So-called “Liberals” are less inclined to accept that obligation so they are less willing to declare themselves fulfilled.
” Our findings corroborate the view that right-wing attitudes may serve a self-protective function, helping individuals to manage and cope with threat.”
So perhaps, when conservatives are happier it is because they are more willing and able to believe things that are emotionally expedient. Such as, my religion, culture, opinion, career etc is the best!; and by taking a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ stance on inconvenient truths. This would explain Trump and the stop the steal movement.
I always feel bad for people who say they don’t want to have kids because of overpopulation. They have swallowed the narrative so deeply they are going to ruin their own happiness. I suspect many realize too late that it was a mistake. As you get older it is your kids that matter – your job, your hobbies, etc are much less important.
The only thing worse than conservatives printing their propaganda and factually wrong “stuff” is a self proclaimed liberal with an IQ in the low triple digits, (if that) unable to do even the most basic of research before publishing:
I give you this:
Using what they call “behavioral measures,” the authors found that
relative to conservatives, liberals more frequently used positive emotional language in their speech and smiled more intensely and genuinely in photographs. Our results were consistent across large samples of online survey takers, U.S. politicians, Twitter users, and Linked-In users.
until and unless I get a 1/2 way decent response about this, I will treat you as I great all conservative garbage that comes to my inbox.
Oh, and almost all the people who read this article, judging by their comments, are unaware that it is flat out wrong.
So, forget taking the time to respond. I do not wish to be associated with the people who populate unherd. For the same reason that I watch very little TV. about 95%+ ignorant stupid crap.
seven oh 2 fortyfive7 threezero89
On unherd, many downticks, with no engagement with the comment is often a tell. People feel offended, but have no comeback….hmmm, whatever could that mean?
A conservative, by definition has the belief that change is probably not possible and certainly hard to achieve so that the happiest thing to do is to accept that most things cannot be changed so one might as well enjoy it and forget about injustices and inequalities. I am sure that facile and shallow attitude works quite fine and dandy for a lot of them. But in the long run I would rather have my liberal angst than that kind of failure to face issues. It is why I call those who label me as woke “sleepy”
By your self-serving definition, you are probably correct.
You seem to have fallen into the “change is good” mindset, the type of thinking that leads to “well we MUST do something”, no matter how irrational. I don’t see many injustices and inequalities being remedied in American cities run by liberals. Nor do I see much hope for dealing with climate change by driving electric cars whose materials come from countries with coal-fired plants. Change is not good. Good change is good.
Thanks for dealing with this.
Amen brother. But the writer completely ignores the definition of conservative, which sets up the wrong argument. They obviously rely solely on MSMNC or CNN for their definition of conservative.
Similar to what I like to say with respect to business process re-engineering:
Change is not good. Staying the same is not good. Good is good…
You’re arguing with a straw man. Conservatives revere tradition and believe in institutional continuity, and are not opposed to gradual organic change. We just don’t like radicalism, because of its strong correlation with terror, torture, famine, and mass murder.
Straw men have the backbone needed to argue in such a manner.
I see the point, but are you really sure that being a liberal is about delivering “change”? Most of my socialist friends are simply about opposing rather changing, with the luxury of not having to make tough or morally complex decisions. They are generally also people who are ineffective at delivery & increasingly outsource their ‘deliverables’ onto a safe, theoretical level (petitions, social media posturing rather than cleaning out the local beck). You may of course be an exception.
A big problem for the left is it’s lack of credibility at delivering tangible change. A week before the first (2020) lockdown, Jeremy Corbyn wrote to the PM demanding as a matter of urgency that he (a) review sick pay provisions to see where & how applications might be sped up, and (b) guarantee that any special regulations for Covid were first subject to a full equal opportunities audit. Nice snapshot of JC’s vision there 🙂 A few days later, Sunak announced the £multi-bn furlough and SEISS schemes. So which side is the one capable of implementing radical programmes quickly?
”Sunak announced the £multi-bn furlough and SEISS schemes.”
Merely because his global masters ordered it. Corbyn is a crazed Communist – But he would have likely done a 100X better job of it than Boris and his minions who’s Fas*ist lockdown, masks, distancing, school closures, Work from Home, Vax bio weapon, *Passports, shutting borders ALL done by creating Debt! – and everything else are leading to the Destruction of the West.
If the Boris Fas*ist covid leadership had planned to do more harm they could not have as they maximized every chance to turn a flu into a disaster equal to WWIII (which they then engineered too).
Corbyn and his minions are fools and incompetents so could have not managed 10% of the disaster the Neo-Con Conservatives pulled off.
one was in power the other wasn’t
Your definition of a conservative is rather unusual Richard. Did you think that up yourself?
One of the “Just William ” books used to make me laugh. The Outlaws were holding an election and wanted to know the difference between the parties and William explained “all parties want to change things but the conservatives want to change them by keeping them exactly as they are”
It worked for awhile Richard, but the injustice detection and repair machine just ain’t functioning no more. Like a chittychittybangbang contraption it’s creating more mess than it resolves and we’re sinking in the hole.
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