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Republicans Report Much Better Mental Health Than Others

Boris noticed this report from Gallup:

Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or independents to rate their mental health as excellent, according to data from the last four November Gallup Health and Healthcare polls. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans report having excellent mental health, compared to 43% of independents and 38% of Democrats. This relationship between party identification and reports of excellent mental health persists even within categories of income, age, gender, church attendance, and education.

The basic data — based on an aggregated sample of more than 4,000 interviews conducted since 2004 — are straightforward.

mentalhealth11302007graph1.gif

One could be quick to assume that these differences are based on the underlying demographic and socioeconomic patterns related to party identification in America today. . . . But an analysis of the relationship between party identification and self-reported excellent mental health within various categories of age, gender, church attendance, income, education, and other variables shows that the basic pattern persists regardless of these characteristics.

mentalhealth11302007graph2.gif

mentalhealth11302007graph3.gif

[Similar graphs follow by sex, age, and church attendance, followed by a multiple regression.]

This comes as a surprise to me. I would’ve expected the opposite–I associate Democrats with the “self-esteem” concept and Republicans with a grimmer, more conservative view of the world. I wonder what the time trends are on this.

P.S. As Matt suggests in comments, this might be a regional thing. I’d also like to see it broken down by urban/suburban/rural.

13 Comments

  1. wongml says:

    Perhaps Republicans really aren't mentally healthier than Democrats, they only think that they are. Perhaps Republicans, due to their Republican beliefs, are worse self-appraisers of mental health and tend to over estimate their mental well-being.

  2. derek says:

    This comes as a surprise to me. I would've expected the opposite–I associate Democrats with the "self-esteem" concept and Republicans with a grimmer, more conservative view of the world.

    Democrats are famous for having a strong concern for the self-esteem of other people. Republicans, in my experience, do indeed have a grimmer view of the mental health of other people, but they invariably believe themselves to be free of such weakness.

  3. ollie says:

    I won't applaud…er…commment on the previous comment, as much as I'd like to. :-)

    I'll just throw out a few observations:

    1) there is the "exceptionalism" doctrine: it is everyone else that is screwed up but not myself.

    2) There was a time when I thought that I was good at mathematics (when I was an undergrad). When I finished by Ph. D. program, I thought that I was a complete idiot when it came to mathematics! It is sort of a "knowing more makes one more aware of one's own inadequacies" type of thing.

    Not to throw stones at anyone, but this reminds me a bit of Carol Travis's comments on "self esteem" surveys when some thought that girls scoring lower on self esteem polls than boys was a bad thing; in fact, it probably isn't.

    I don't have the depth of knowledge in this area to know if my observations are relevant or not.

  4. Matt Stevens says:

    Too bad they didn't control for region. It's possible that Northeasterners are more likely to declare themselves unhappy or depressed than, say, Southerners.

  5. Nick Cox says:

    Aren't Democrats likely to report feeling more depressed given what they think the Republicans have been doing in and to the world while in power, and their consequent frustration?

  6. ollie says:

    Matt might be on to something. The poll was for November, right? I know that my mood goes down about this time of year; the amount of daylight is decreasing, the yuckky weather is starting, etc.

    I'd like to see a regional breakdown, and it would be interesting to see the results if they were taken, say, over the summer.

  7. ZBicyclist says:

    These are surprisingly large effects, of sufficient strength to power several dissertations. ;)

    My Democratic household has two theories.

    My wife suggests Republicans are more likely to be delusional.

    I'd suggest that there's a whole subculture of victimization on the left/Democratic side that might be to blame. (The counterpart would be Republican "self-made-man" rhetoric. Whether this relates to reported mental health or actual mental health, I don't know.

    Nor do we have any evidence to back this up.

  8. timThompson2 says:

    To expand on Matt's suggestion, what about controlling for population density in the county of the respondent?

    I think it's generally agreed that city life is more stressful than country life, and that socially liberal people are more likely to live in cities.

  9. Jim P says:

    Any Republican reading the comments would have his stereotypes about the mental health of Democrats reinforced.

  10. Dan says:

    About the phrase "grimmer and more conservative" – how does conservatism equate with being grim? I think this phrase reveals a certain bias.

    Republicans tend to hold self-sufficiency as an ideal, and are probably more likely to feel empowered over their own destiny as a result. Meanwhile, Democrats may be more likely to see individuals as victims of larger forces (as the previous writer suggested the the "victimology" comment).

    Take a look at Kos and Instapundit – the former on the left and the latter on the right (or at least the small-government libertarian end of the scale) – and I think it's pretty clear where the unhappiness lies.

  11. Andrew says:

    Dan,

    I didn't mean it in a negative way. I was reacting to the image of liberals as utopians and conservatives as realists. In any case, my expectations weren't correct (as noted, I was surprised by the findings). So maybe you're right that there's something more general going on, with liberals being the dissatisfied people (they're the ones who want to change things) and conservatives being more content (inasmuch as conservatism means conserving things the way they are).

    I still don't know whether the results go away if you break things down by region of the country, as suggested by some of the commenters above.

  12. Will says:

    Perhaps these results just reflect that fact that uncertainty makes people unhappy. In this picture, people who have more simplistic (or clearer and more robust, take your pick) ethical systems or worldviews will be happier because of the increased subjective certainty they support.

    Poking around the Gallup site reveals a (single) regression suggesting the usual drivers for happiness in this data: income and status, but also a strong effect of religion (measured as frequency of church attendance), reflecting a lack of material, social, and psychological uncertainty perhaps.

    It's fast, loose, and spectacularly underdetermined by the various marginals we are allowed to see, but that's my interpretation of this data.

  13. Barry says:

    Dan:
    "Take a look at Kos and Instapundit – the former on the left and the latter on the right (or at least the small-government libertarian end of the scale) – and I think it's pretty clear where the unhappiness lies."

    Yes. Glenn Reynolds, after six years of corruption, dishonesty, war and violation of every claimed principle, is pretty happy.

    That's not a sign of mental *health*.