Why Do Conservatives Report Being Happier Than Liberals? The Contribution of Neuroticism


  • Caitlin M. Burton
  • Jason E. Plaks
  • Jordan B. Peterson


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.