Thaddeus Baklinski


Study: conservatives are happier than liberals

Thaddeus Baklinski

ST. CATHARINES, Ontario, July 29, 2013 ( - A study conducted at Brock University examining the association between "authoritarianism and subjective well-being" has found that individuals who think of themselves as right-wing conservatives have a much greater sense of well-being and happiness than those who describe themselves as left-wing liberals. 

Lead researcher, psychologist Dr. Cara MacInnis, began with the premise that although "authoritarianism can negatively impact others (e.g., by predicting prejudiced intergroup attitudes)," she noted that, "implications for the self are mixed and require clarification." 

To study these implications, MacInnis and colleagues enlisted 237 undergraduate Brock University students and administered a series of questionnaires. 

Participants were first asked to rate themselves as to how much they aligned with "right-wing authoritarianism," that is, a tendency to submit to authority, condemn those who violate the rules, and uphold established traditions. 

A second questionnaire considered "social dominance orientation," which is described as a preference for individuals to feel most comfortable in a society that functions within an established social hierarchy, or "unequal intergroup relations." 

A "Hexaco Personality Inventory" was also administered. This test evaluated the students' characters, and included questions on levels of honesty, humility, emotionality, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience, with 10 items for each personality dimension on which the students could rate themselves. 

Finally, the students were asked to describe how they felt "in general," using a group of 20 adjectives (10 positive and 10 negative), on scales ranging from 1 = not at all or very slightly, to 5 = extremely. 

They were also asked to rate their "life satisfaction," on a scale ranging from 1 = worst life I could have, to 9 = best life I could have, with higher scores indicating higher overall satisfaction with one’s life. 

The research team found a “significant association” between "authoritarian attitudes" and a subjective sense of well-being. 

“On the general level, greater generalized authoritarianism was clearly related to greater subjective well-being,” the researchers wrote in their report. “The association suggests that generalized authoritarianism may be ‘good’ for the self.” 

These findings, they stated, are “in line with evidence that conservative ideology … may promote positive psychological outcomes, including well-being.” 

"It has also been proposed," the authors noted, "that authoritarianism may promote greater self-esteem, belief in a just world, and personal agency, while also buffering against anxiety." 

The name given to the research report by Dr. MacInnis, "The happy cyclist: Examining the association between generalized authoritarianism and subjective well-being," refers to a quote with which she begins the report, attributed to German sociologist Theodor W. Adorno, who metaphorically "likened the authoritarian individual to a cyclist, bowing at the top and kicking at the bottom." 

"Although bowing and kicking through life by way of submissiveness and social dominance may have a ‘dark’ connotation, authoritarian ‘cyclists’ may nonetheless be relatively more happy and satisfied with their lives," MacInnis concluded. 

An abstract, with links to the full text of the report titled, "The happy cyclist: Examining the association between generalized authoritarianism and subjective well-being" is available here

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