Singing with the bluebird of happiness

The founder of the modern conservative movement, former President Ronald Reagan, had this to say on Jan. 25, 1974, the eve of his announcement that he would be seeking the presidency for the first time: “One of the [government] research projects was ‘The Demography of Happiness,’ and for $249,000, we found that ‘people who make more money are happier than people who make less, young people are happier than old people, and people who are healthier are happier than people who are sick.’ For 15 cents, they could have bought an Almanac and read the old bromide, ‘It’s better to be rich, young and healthy, than poor, old and sick.'”

I remember seeing him give a version of that speech years later when he was elected president. Which leads me to this week’s Right Hook. Ah man, there are days that I just love writing this column—particularly when I come across the following, which is submitted for your consideration.

A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center (pewresearch.org) has found that conservatives are much more likely to consider themselves “very happy” as compared to liberals. According to the survey, 45 percent of Republicans consider themselves “very happy” compared with only 30 percent of Democrats. And apparently we’re happier for reasons other than the fact that W. is running the show. Republicans have been happier than Democrats every year since the survey began. “Since 1972, the GOP happiness edge over Democrats has ebbed and flowed in a pattern that appears unrelated to which party is in political power.” (And I’d be willing to bet that isn’t the case with those “very happy Democrats.")

The survey also found this: “Conservative Republicans are happier than conservative Democrats, and moderate/liberal Republicans are happier than liberal Democrats.”

Also, 43 percent of the “very happy” people who attended religious services at least weekly are happier than those who attended on a monthly basis or less (31 percent), and as compared with those who attended services either “seldom or never” (26 percent).

And 43 percent of the “very happy” people are married people as compared with the 24 percent of unmarried people. This has apparently also been a consistent statistic over the years. (This also holds true for both men and women and across all age groups.)

You’d think that income might play a part in all this. Guess again. Across all income brackets Republicans over Democrats reported being “very happy” at the following ratios: Under $30,000 per year, 28 percent to 23 percent; $30k-$50k, 44 percent to 23 percent; $50k-$75k, 45 percent to 30 percent; and $75k-plus, 52 percent to 30 percent.

Of course, your host reveled in the following conclusion: “[T]he most robust correlations of all those described in this [happiness] report are health, income, church attendance, being married and, yes, being a Republican. Indeed, being a Republican is associated not only with happiness; it is also associated with every other trait in this cluster.”

You will perhaps forgive me for being smug, but I find this result unusually comforting. For it will undoubtedly further depress the Democrats in the peanut gallery.

I’ve been listening to the same tired tirade for years: Some people earn too little only because some have too much.

Those religious types? Nothing but zealots.

And marriage? Hopelessly passé, unless, of course, it’s of the same-gender variety.

And of course, corporate greed and gluttonous consumption are just so bourgeoisie.

These are not views that lend themselves toward happiness. But then conservatives (and their values) already figured out what does. And from all appearances, we seem to be doing just fine.