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Happiness Politics

March 16, 2015

Liberals tend to show happiness outwardly, while conservatives are more likely to claim that they’re happy.



Erik Hersman flickr CC BY 2.0

(Erik Hersman/flickr/CC BY 2.0)

The politics of happiness. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Happiness is correlated with health, income and even longevity, so many scientists are interested in studying it. But UC, Irvine researcher Sean Wojcik and his colleagues report in the journal Science that simply asking people if they’re happy may not be reliable. They say conservatives consistently report higher levels of happiness than liberals do. But language analysis of the writings of politicians and members of the public suggest that liberals actually demonstrate more happiness, a finding confirmed by analyzing photos.

SEAN WOJCIK (University of California, Irvine):

Liberal politicians and people at liberal organizations smiled more intensely overall than people affiliated with conservative organizations, but this was especially true in the muscles orbiting the eyes that indicate genuine expressions of happiness.


The research highlights the importance of using multiple measures to study emotional states—especially when such studies are being used to inform public policy. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the science society.