CONSERVATIVES = HAPPIER BECUSE LOWER NEUROTICISM
(and higher disgust)
Conservative states tend to have higher levels of life satisfaction because they have lower levels of neuroticism compared to liberal states, according to new research from a psychologist at Cape Breton University.
The study, published in the journal Psychological Reports, helps explain why there is a correlation between higher conservatism and higher life satisfaction.
“I have had longstanding interests in social, personality, and political psychology,” explained study author Stewart J. H. McCann. “My special interest in personality and its state-level correlates was sparked in 2008 when Dr. P. Jason Rentfrow of the University of Cambridge and his colleagues produced average scores for each of the 50 states on each of the five main personality dimensions—openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism—based on the responses of 619,397 residents of the USA to a widely used 44-item personality questionnaire.
“Since that time, I have published 17 research articles showing relations between state-levels of these personality variables and various other important differences between states such as political attitudes, work satisfaction, illness, mortality, residential mobility, creativity, volunteering, emotional health, smoking, and obesity.”
“Previous research by others had shown that conservatives generally were happier and more satisfied with their lives than liberals. But why?” McCann told PsyPost. “Three different explanations had been put forward by others. However, I thought that there might be a fourth and more convincing explanation.”
“Existing research demonstrated that there are associations not only between higher conservatism and higher life satisfaction but also between lower neuroticism and higher life satisfaction and between lower neuroticism and higher conservatism. Perhaps if neuroticism was statistically controlled or effectively held constant, the association between higher conservatism and higher life satisfaction would vanish.”
“The relation between conservatism and life satisfaction might be dependent upon neuroticism levels. The present study was conducted to test this possibility in a state-level analysis.”
McCann analyzed data from Rentfrow’s study, Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, U.S. Census Bureau, CBS News and the New York Times polls, and the presidential election results from 2000 to 2008.
He found that differences in the levels of neuroticism in each state could account for the state-level association between higher conservatism and higher life satisfaction. Other factors he examined, including socioeconomic status, did not account for the association.
“The results of the present study strongly suggest that there is nothing inherent in a conservative worldview as opposed to a liberal worldview that promotes greater happiness and life satisfaction,” McCann explained. “Rather it is the underlying higher neuroticism that tends to be more likely in liberals and the underlying lower neuroticism that tends to be more likely in conservatives that accounts for the greater happiness and life satisfaction in conservatives.”
“For example, higher neuroticism is characterized by higher levels of vulnerability, self-consciousness, depression, tenseness, moodiness, angry hostility, impulsiveness, nervousness, anxiety, worry, emotional instability, and poor stress management. Clearly, such a constellation does not bode well for happiness and satisfaction with life.”
The study used a cross-sectional methodology, meaning McCann cannot make inferences about cause and effect. He believes, based on previous research, that higher neuroticism fosters lower life satisfaction and that lower neuroticism promotes higher conservatism — but the reverse could also be true.
His study has another caveat as well.
“Readers must understand that this was a study carried out with the 50 states rather than a sample of individuals as the cases,” McCann explained. “What was found is that state levels of resident neuroticism can account for the relation between state levels of conservatism and state levels of life satisfaction.
“I am assuming that the state-level relations are dependent upon parallel individual-level relations. Caution must be exercised in making such cross-level extrapolations. However, some comfort is taken from the fact that other researchers (Burton, Plaks, & Peterson, 2015) also have found the same dynamics in an individual-level analysis and reached the same conclusion regarding why conservatives tend to be happier and more satisfied with life.”
The study was titled: “State Resident Neuroticism Accounts for Life Satisfaction Differences Between Conservative and Liberal States of the USA”.
Neuroticism is one of the Big Five higher-order personality traits in the study of psychology. Individuals who score high on neuroticism are more likely than average to be moody and to experience such feelings as anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, guilt, depressed mood, and loneliness. People who are neurotic respond worse to stressors and are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. They are often self-conscious and shy, and they may have trouble controlling urges and delaying gratification.
Neuroticism is a trait in many models within personality theory, but there is a lot of disagreement on its definition. Some define it as a tendency for quick arousal when stimulated and slow relaxation from arousal, especially in concern to negative emotional arousal; others define it as emotional instability and negativity or maladjustment, in contrast to emotional stability and positivity, or good adjustment. Others yet define it as lack of self-control, poor ability to manage psychological stress, and a tendency to complain.
Various personality tests produce numerical scores, and these scores are mapped onto the concept of “neuroticism” in various ways, which has created some confusion in the scientific literature, especially with regard to sub-traits or “facets”.
Individuals who score low in neuroticism tend to be more emotionally stable and less reactive to stress. They tend to be calm, even-tempered, and less likely to feel tense or rattled. Although they are low in negative emotion, they are not necessarily high on positive emotion. Being high in scores of positive emotion is generally an element of the independent trait of extraversion. Neurotic extraverts, for example, would experience high levels of both positive and negative emotional states, a kind of “emotional roller coaster”.
(Impulsive) Neurotic <-> Calm (Agency)
1) State Resident Neuroticism Accounts for Life Satisfaction Differences Between Conservative and Liberal States of the USA
Stewart J. H. McCannFirst Published August 11, 2017 Research Article Find in PubMed
Past research indicates associations between higher conservatism and higher life satisfaction, lower neuroticism and higher life satisfaction, and higher conservatism and lower neuroticism. Qualified deduction led to the following hypothesis: Neuroticism can account for the association between higher conservatism and higher life satisfaction. The 50 American states served as the units of analysis. Responses of 619,397 residents to the 44-item Big Five Inventory in an internet survey conducted from 1999 to 2005 provided mean neuroticism scores for each state. Conservative-liberal leaning of over 84,000 respondents to CBS News/New York Times polls from 1999 to 2003 and the percent voting Republican in each state in the 2000 to 2008 presidential elections combined to form a conservatism score for each state. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index provided life satisfaction scores for over 1,000,000 respondents, transforming to a 2008 to 2010 composite score for each state. In a sequential multiple regression equation with life satisfaction as the criterion, state socioeconomic status and white population percent entered first as a block, conservatism entered second, and neuroticism entered third, the demographic controls accounted for 45.7% of the variance, conservatism accounted for another 10.4%, and neuroticism accounted for an additional 10.6%. However, with the entry order of conservatism and neuroticism reversed, neuroticism accounted for another 19.6% but conservatism accounted for only an additional nonsignificant 1.4%. Therefore, the hypothesis was supported. Three alternative explanations suggested by other researchers were not supported in the state-level analysis.
2) Why Do Conservatives Report Being Happier Than Liberals? The Contribution of Neuroticism
Caitlin M. Burton*a, Jason E. Plaksa, Jordan B. Petersona
[a] Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Previous studies suggest that conservatives in the United States are happier than liberals. This difference has been attributed to factors including differences in socioeconomic status, group memberships, and system-justifying beliefs. We suggest that differences between liberals and conservatives in personality traits may provide an additional account for the “happiness gap”. Specifically, we investigated the role of neuroticism (or conversely, emotional stability) in explaining the conservative-liberal happiness gap. In Study 1 (N = 619), we assessed the correlation between political orientation (PO) and satisfaction with life (SWL), controlling for the Big Five traits, religiosity, income, and demographic variables. Neuroticism, conscientiousness, and religiosity each accounted for the PO-SWL correlation. In Study 2 (N = 700), neuroticism, system justification beliefs, conscientiousness, and income each accounted for PO-SWL correlation. In both studies, neuroticism negatively correlated with conservatism. We suggest that individual differences in neuroticism represent a previously under-examined contributor to the SWL disparity between conservatives and liberals.