The Politics of Fun
By Richard Morin
Sunday, July 25, 2004; Page B05
Nearly everybody in the greater Washington area agrees this is a fun place to live. But in a town where politics is a participatory sport, who has more fun, Democrats or Republicans?
By a narrow margin, Republicans are this area's fun bunch, according to a recent Washington Post survey.
Six in 10 Republicans said they were satisfied with the way they spent their weekends, compared with half of all Democrats. Meanwhile, a majority of Democrats said they wished they had more fun on weekends, a complaint expressed by fewer than half of all GOP partisans.
To explore this very serious issue, The Post interviewed 1,001 randomly selected adults living in the District and the Maryland and Northern Virginia suburbs from June 28 to July 1. The margin of sampling error for the overall results was plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Respondents were asked how they had spent their leisure time on the previous weekend or their usual days off. "The previous weekend" -- June 25-27 -- was a fairly typical Friday through Sunday in early summer. The weather was warm, with generally clear skies.
Specifically, they were asked whether they did any one of 38 leisure-time activities, such as going on a hike, shopping at a mall, dining out or entertaining friends. They were also asked about their political leanings.
So does party affiliation help separate the party animals from the party poopers? Not really. Yet a few differences emerged: Thirty-six percent of the Republicans reported that they had swum in or lounged by the pool the previous weekend compared with 23 percent of Democrats -- perhaps because more of the Republicans, who were somewhat wealthier as a group, had pools of their own to lounge by.
Republicans also were more likely to say they had puttered in the yard. Democrats were more likely to have had people over. Nearly half -- 47 percent -- said they had entertained guests during the previous weekend, compared with to 37 percent of Republicans. Democrats also were more likely to say they had gone to a movie or watched television -- about an hour more on average per weekend than the Republicans who were surveyed.
Six in 10 Democrats said they had taken a nap the previous weekend, compared with half of the Republicans. (We didn't ask whether they had fallen asleep in front of the television.)
And yes, the stereotype is true: Golf and the GOP seem to go hand-in-hand. Nearly half -- 45 percent -- of the Republicans surveyed said they owned a set of golf clubs compared with 21 percent of all area Democrats. What's more, a third of the Republicans said they'd used those clubs in the past year, compared with 21 percent of the Democratic respondents.
While the survey was just conducted in the Washington area, these results confirm earlier research that suggests that Democrats don't have as much fun as Republicans.
Political scientist and wit Lee Sigelman of George Washington University, in a study he did a decade ago of national trend data collected over the previous 20 years, discovered that Democrats, on average, didn't live as long as Republicans, were less likely to marry, more likely to divorce if they did get married and more likely to commit suicide.
He also found that Democrats were less likely to say in national public opinion polls that they were "very happy."
"Compared to respectable Americans, i.e. Republicans," Sigelman concluded impishly , "Democrats can be expected to inhabit a Hobbesian state of nature, a world in which life is poor, short, solitary, brutish and nasty."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company