Why is the right happier than the left?

So far as I am aware, every survey that asks about political orientation and happiness finds that right-wingers are happier than left-wingers. In the 2007 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes, Liberal identifiers were a massive 13% ahead of Labor identifiers as describing themselves as ‘very happy’, 40%/27%. At his blog, Winton Bates summarises a new article on this subject, by Jaime Napier and John Jost in the June issue of Psychological Science, this way:

The study suggests that some of the association between political orientation and subjective well-being is accounted for by beliefs about inequality. The authors examined the effect of introducing ideological variables – relating to beliefs about inequality and meritocracy- in regression analyses explaining life satisfaction in the U.S. and nine other countries. They found that when the ideological variable was introduced into the analysis it took some of the explanatory power away from the political variable. …

The authors conclude that “inequality takes a greater psychological toll on liberals than on conservatives, apparently because liberals lack ideological rationalizations that would help them frame inequality in a positive (or at least neutral) light”

I don’t doubt that there is a statistical relationship between beliefs about inequality, meritocracy, and getting ahead that helps explain why leftists are not as happy as conservatives and others on the right. Even the new president of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur Brooks, makes this point in his book Gross National Happiness.

But how likely is that when people are asked how happy they feel, their mind turns to ideological rationalisations of inequality? Continue reading “Why is the right happier than the left?”

Spreading ignorance of a carbon emissions trading scheme

After three weeks of nearly non-stop discussion of a carbon emissions trading scheme public knowledge of it is…decreasing! On 1 July, The Age reported that half those surveyed by a Galaxy Poll had either not heard of an emissions trading scheme or did not know what it was. Today another Age report, this time of an ACNielsen poll, finds ignorance at 60% (I think the inclusion of a ‘slightly’ understand option pushed up those willing to confess to being baffled by the biggest reform in a decade).

Overall, there is a similar pattern here to other polling, which shows that most people are, at least in principle, willing to pay more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The only question in this poll to yield new and interesting information was on whether Australia should act regardless of what other countries do. A surprisingly high number – 77% – say yes, with 19% saying we should reduce greenhouse gas emissions only if other nations do. I’d like to see more polling that investigates whether people believe that Australia acting alone will have much of an effect or not. With most respondents admitting to at best sketchy knowledge, it is hard to know what factual assumptions are behind the answers they are giving.