Are Republicans Happier Than Democrats?

Larry Elder
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Posted: Dec 06, 2007 12:01 AM
Are Republicans Happier Than Democrats?

I caught a cab during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. The driver immediately began teeing off on Republicans. The cabbie said that his father told him, "Republicans care about General Electric, and Democrats care about you and me."

I just watched a documentary on the 2004 election. A young man described why he became a Democrat. As a child he asked his dad whether he should support the Republican or the Democratic Party. His dad said something like, "Do you intend to become rich?" The son said he hoped to. His dad then suggested that he join the Republican Party since it was for the rich and not for "everybody else."

This raises an interesting question. Does this us-versus-them, good-guy-versus bad-guy position (as the GOP only cares about "the rich") affect one's happiness or mental health? A couple of recent polls may perhaps shed some light on these questions.

An Investor's Business Daily/TIPP poll recently asked Democrats, Republicans and Independents to define "rich." Does "rich" mean material possessions, or does "rich" mean something like happiness/health/satisfaction?

Democrats at 41.5 percent, versus Republicans at 28.2 percent, more often defined "rich" as either possessing lots of money, material goods or power. Sample "materialistic" responses included things like, "Rich means:" 1. "If you have an income in excess of $500,000 a year," 2. "Someone who has $1 million in the bank," 3. "To have substantially more money than you can spend," and 4. "Being able to afford anything you want and buy your way out of trouble."

When specifically asked whether rich means having family, friends and good relationships, Republicans, more so than Democrats, defined the term this way. Sixteen percent of Republicans defined "rich" in this way versus 9.7 percent of Democrats. Sample "non-materialistic" responses included things like: 1. "I am rich because I have a roof over my head and a good family and I am emotionally and morally stable." 2. "Someone who has many friends that you care about and that care about you." 3. "I am rich because my children and grandchildren live close to me and I live where I want to -- this is rich to me."

Did Republicans answer the "rich" question in a non-materialistic way because they have more money than Democrats?

A new Gallup Poll recently asked Democrats and Republicans to describe their own "mental health." Fifty-eight percent of Republicans describe their mental health as "excellent," compared to 38 percent of Democrats. But what about the role of money?

Gallup's Frank Newport writes, "[A]n analysis of the relationship between party identification and self-reported excellent mental health within various categories of age, gender, church attendance, income, education, and other variables shows that the basic pattern persists regardless of these characteristics. . . . In almost all cases, Republicans are more likely to report excellent mental health across the various categories."

Association and causation are two different things. In other words, does being a Republican make someone define "rich" in a non-material sense or report better mental health? Or do people who feel this way choose the Republican Party?

Republicans consider themselves, to a far greater degree than Democrats, in charge of their own destiny. Republicans, more so than Democrats, believe hard work wins. Republicans, more so than Democrats, believe that effort and persistence pay off. Democrats, more so than Republicans, consider the playing field uneven or unfair. And Democrats, more so than Republicans, believe that forces exist that conspire against them, hold them back or hold them down.

Ever heard of EQ -- Emotional Quotient?

A large life insurance company used intelligence tests to determine which job applicants to hire. Still, many hirees failed. So the company turned to University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman, who studied the relationship between high EQ and who succeeds in life. Seligman devised a test that allowed the insurance company to determine an applicant's emotional quotient -- or the extent to which the applicant felt that he or she controlled his or her destiny. The company theorized that high EQ salesmen, when rejected on sales calls, tend to ask themselves, "What could I do better?" or "How could I have turned that customer around?" In other words, optimism, hope and a feeling of "my actions make a difference" predict greater success in sales.

The result? Applicants scoring high on EQ out-earned those who performed poorly on the test, even when the latter group scored high on the intelligence test. Perhaps this applies to Republicans and Democrats, with Democrats -- more so than Republicans -- possessing a "victicrat" mentality.

So, what your parents and grandparents told you turned out to be true: Money does not buy happiness. What they likely did not say, however, is that happy people tend to vote Republican.