A 2006 Pew Research poll found that 45 percent of Republicans describe themselves as "very happy," compared with only 30 percent of Democrats (and 29 percent of independents). This is a sizable gap and a remarkably consistent one, too. Republicans have been happier than Democrats every year since the General Social Survey, conducted biannually by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, began asking about happiness in 1972.
What to make of this finding? Is there something about being a card-carrying member of the GOP that induces a warm, fuzzy feeling, a sort of political Prozac? Or does the river of causality flow in the other direction: Are happy people more likely to become Republicans than Democrats? Or maybe neither explanation holds water and it only appears as if Republicans are happier than Democrats.
The study controls for some of the obvious likely culprits, like income (i.e. maybe Republicans are richer, or have been in power more often than Democrats). But the "happiness gap" persists even after controlling for these factors, and it's over a pretty long time frame--the study has been conducted biannually since 1972.
Some of the factors that are associated with happiness are probably more likely to be seen with conservatives - like regular church attendance and a stable marriage.
But the study doesn't show that these factors cause happiness (although I tend to think they do). It could be that happiness leads to stable marriages and church attendance rather than the other way around.
But it's an interesting and though provoking piece either way.
Once you've read it, skip over to the Happiness Project, Getchen Rubin's journal of her year spent test-driving various principles that have been put forth as being the keys to happiness. It's one of the bette "attitude readjustment" sites out there. And definitely click on this piece she put together if you have kids.