It’s been a bad week for Republicans, many of whom expressed outrage at President Donald Trump for refusing to admonish Russian president Vladimir Putin for reportedly meddling in the 2016 elections. But, according to a recent study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, conservatives around the globe have the upper hand when it comes to at least one thing: compared to liberals, they’re more likely to find their lives meaningful.
Psychologists at the University of Southern California analyzed studies from 16 countries in which thousands of people were asked to rank their political ideology on a scale of 1 to 7—ranging from “extremely conservative” to “extremely liberal”—then rate the degree to which they agreed with statements such as “I understand my life’s meaning” and “My life has a real purpose.”
According to the study’s abstract, the results found that, overall, “conservatives reported greater meaning and purpose in life than liberals at each reporting period.”
While this is purely conjecture, the researchers have two theories on why those on the right wing end of the spectrum might feel more ontologically satisfied than those on the left.
The first was that the country’s current state of progress is moving in the direction of their beliefs and values.
“Finding meaning in life is related to the sense or feeling that things are the way they should be, and that there is a sense of order,” David Newman, a doctoral candidate at USC Dornsife’s Mind and Society Center and lead author of the study, said in a statement. “If life feels chaotic, then that would likely dampen your sense that life is meaningful.”
But that explanation only applies to America, and even then it’s a weak one, since the study covered materials spanning four decades.
Another possible reason for this disparity could be tied to faith, since conservatives tend to be more religious than liberals, and some studies have found that people with religious affiliations tend to live longer, happier lives. But the researchers said that, even when they adjusted the results according to faith, there still seemed to be a link between right-wing ideology and sense of purpose.
That said, Newman cautioned that the study does not necessarily mean that “every conservative finds a lot of meaning in their life and that every liberal is depressed,” especially since there are a variety of factors that affect your sense of purpose, from your personality traits, to your mood, to how much sleep you get. Not to mention that the study did not say that liberals find their lives completely devoid of meaning, so much as they are still searching for it.
Still, given that viewing your life as meaningful is a crucial part of being happy, it’s worth considering the reason for this partisan divide, especially since a recent Gallup poll found that the happiness levels of Americans are at the lowest they’ve been since they first started collecting the data in 2008. And while Finland got the top score in this year’s World Happiness Report, the United States fell to a historic low, coming in 18th place.
If you’re looking to boost your happiness levels, regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, well, I Took Yale’s Happiness Course and Here’s Everything I Learned.
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