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A Happiness Gap: Doomacrats And Republigrins

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By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 24, 2008

Now the good news for Republicans: You are happier than Democrats. You always have been, and you probably always will be.

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Never mind that your presidential candidate is sinking in the polls while your president plumbs historic depths of popular scorn and your free market squeals for intervention while your investments evaporate on Wall Street. You are not just happier than the other guys, but more of you are very happy indeed, according to new survey results published yesterday by the Pew Research Center.

The pollsters were in the field asking about happiness this month, a period when economic news was gloomy for everybody and presidential campaign news seemed especially baleful for Republicans. Yet they found 37 percent of Republicans are "very happy," compared with 25 percent of Democrats; 51 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Democrats are "pretty happy"; and 9 percent of Republicans are "not too happy," compared with 20 percent of Democrats.

The partisan happiness gap -- unbroken for nearly four decades -- is impervious to electoral ups and downs. It has something to do with worldview.

"I'm very happy," says Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and a Republican. "When I was 12, I realized the world was not organized around my desires and wishes. The problem with guys on the left is they never figured that out at age 12. And they're just irritated the world is not organized around their vision. This makes them grumpy."

Chris Lehane doesn't sound grumpy. The Democratic consultant is on the phone from San Francisco: "My guess is if [Pew] checked the cross tabs out in California, we're all pretty happy out here. The wine is still good, the food is fresh, the people are beautiful."

But seriously, says Lehane, if Republicans are more happy, it's because they care less.

"The typical Republican is happy coming home to a 62-inch television, pulling out a fine bottle of cognac or Scotch, putting his feet on the table and enjoying the fruits of his labor, but not caring what's going on in the world outside their living room . . . and their gated community."

Government-funded researchers identified the happiness gap in 1972. Since then, the Democrats have been comparatively more bummed out not just during the tenures of GOP presidents Ford, Reagan, Bush and Bush. They were noticeably less joyful than Republicans even during the GOP fiasco of Watergate, and during the Democratic Carter and Clinton administrations.

This year, when things seem so rosy for Democrats, the joy gulch yawns wider than ever. The fraction of very happy Republicans has never been so much larger than the very happy Democrats.

What's the Republicans' secret to feeling groovy?

"They have more money," Paul Taylor, director of the Pew Social & Demographic Trends project, writes in the new report. "They have more friends. They are more religious. They are healthier. They are more likely to be married. They like their communities better. They like their jobs more. They are more satisfied with their family life. They like the weather better."


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