Contented people are more likely to vote than unhappy ones, according to a study co-authored by a Baylor University researcher.
Dr. Patrick Flavin, an assistant professor of political science at Baylor, also found that discontented individuals are no more likely to take part in political protests.
That came as a surprise to Flavin and fellow researcher Michael Keane, a former graduate student at the University of Notre Dame, who originally theorized that satisfied people might be less likely to vote or participate in other political activities because they would not feel much of a desire for change compared to dissatisfied people.
The study will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Happiness Studies, an international scientific quarterly.
The men analyzed representative data of 1,300 respondents from the American National Election Studies, examining whether a person votes and an individual's score on a "participation index" that includes activities such as volunteering for a political campaign, attending rallies, contributing to candidates, contacting an elected official within the past year and displaying a yard sign, bumper sticker or political button.
The positive relationship between life satisfaction and political participation held even after controlling for income, gender, race, education and other factors, Flavin said.
He stressed there is little evidence from previous studies that the reverse is true -- that participating in politics makes people happier.
But "we can say with confidence that people who reported being more satisfied with their lives are more likely to get involved in politics," he said.
- Patrick Flavin, Michael J. Keane. Life Satisfaction and Political Participation: Evidence from the United States. Journal of Happiness Studies, 2011; DOI: 10.1007/s10902-011-9250-1
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