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Liberals, especially women, ‘significantly less happy’ with lives than conservative peers, study finds

New polling from YouGov and the Deseret News has found that liberals, especially liberal women, are ‘significantly less happy’ with their lives than their conservative peers.

The US polling, which was conducted as part of the 2022 American Family Survey, found that liberals were about 18 percentage points less likely to be “completely satisfied” with their “mental health” than conservatives. The problem seems to be particularly acute for liberal women, who registered the lowest levels of satisfaction with their lives and mental health.

Only 15% of liberal women in the age group surveyed said they were “completely satisfied” with their lives, compared to 31% of conservative women. 

In the same vein, only 15% of liberal women reported being “completely satisfied” with their mental health, compared to 36% of conservative women. 

The American Family Survey has been conducted since 2015 by the Centre for the Study of Elections and Democracy and The Deseret News, together with YouGov, to assess the current landscape of the family in America. 

Each year, the survey is administered to a sample of 3,000 adult respondents whose characteristics mirror those of the general population. The survey includes findings on the basic structure of the family in America, current attitudes towards marriage and family, and the perceived role of government policy in relation to the family.

This year’s national survey emphasised how the opinions of moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats differed from the more conservative of liberal members of their parties. 

Commenting on the findings, American sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox said that attitudes towards family and marriage largely explained the difference in life satisfaction and mental health outcomes in liberals and conservatives. 

“Two family factors have a lot to do with this ideological gap: marital status and family satisfaction. Given that conservatives aged 18-55 are about 20 percentage points more likely to be married, as well as 18 percentage points more likely to be satisfied with their families, the lesson here is obvious. Marriage and family are strongly linked to happiness and to personal mental health in particular,” Wilcox said, writing on the striking findings for UnHerd.

The polling also found that liberals were less happy with family life. 38% of liberal men said they were “completely satisfied” with family, compared to 49% of conservative men. When it came to women, the gap was significantly wider: 36% of liveral women said they were completely satisfied with family life, compared to 61% of conservative women who reported the highest levels of satisfaction with their family lives.

Shedding light on this discrepancy, Wilcox said that conservative Americans are more likely to ‘embrace the family-first values and virtues that steer towards wedlock and fulfilling family lives’.

“The problem facing liberals, then, is that too many of them have embraced the false narrative that the path to happiness runs counter to marriage and family life, not towards it. They think independence, freedom and work will make them happy, which is why significant portions of the popular media are filled these days with stories celebrating divorce and singleness,” the Director of the National Marriage Project said, adding:

“A recent story by Molly Smith in Bloomberg, for instance, falsely claimed that “Women Who Stay Single and Don’t Have Kids Are Getting Richer” (in reality, married mothers are richest) and spotlighted childless, single women who claim personal happiness: in the words of one, “I love my life and feel very fulfilled.” 

“The challenge for progressives is to understand and appreciate that these women are outliers. The secret to happiness, for most men and women, involves marriage and a life based around the family. The challenge for conservatives, of course, is to find new cultural platforms to communicate the value of marriage and family life to a young adult audience fleeing from the very way of life most likely to increase their odds of happiness”, he said.

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