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In the game of happy marriages, Republicans are winning.

That’s what two sociologists from the University of Virginia and the University of Utah respectively, say in an analysis of married couples. Their conclusion posits the notion that the family-centric beliefs many Republicans adhere to could make the difference between successful and unsuccessful marriages.

“Conservatism also has values and cultural attitudes…that seem to improve the environment in which children grow up,” writes David Leonhardt in The Upshot. “It also seems possible that the more respect and even reverence for the idea of marriage in conservative communities affects people’s behavior and attitudes toward their marriages.”

The study, which analyzed data taken from the General Social Survey, reported that, among married people between the ages of 20 and 60, 67 percent of self-identified Republicans reported being “very happy” with their marriages, with 60 percent of both self-identified independents and Democrats saying the same thing.

Once the researchers controlled for demographic differences, the 7-point gap shrunk.

Of course, as the researchers pointed out, there are other correlative factors: Whites and Christians tend to be Republicans, and many people of color, as well as those who are friendlier to open, non-monogamous marriage arrangements are more likely to identify as Democrats.

As Kevin Drum at Mother Jones pointed out, the study is neither that surprising nor particularly noteworthy:

The differences are small no matter how you slice the data, and really, who cares? Republicans generally report higher happiness levels overall, which is understandable at one level (conservatism doesn’t challenge your comfort level much) but peculiar at another (if they’re so happy, what’s the deal with the endless anger and outrage?). But whatever the reason, if they’re generally happier they’re probably also happier with their marriages.

W. Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas H. Wolfinger, the researchers behind the study, say that partisan differences – culture and values – could account for the Republicans’ apparent edge in having happier marriages. But it’s possibly just a matter of perspective: As the researchers write, “Perhaps Republicans are more optimistic, more charitable, or more inclined to look at their marriages through rose-colored glasses.”

“But what we do know is this,” they write. “Democrats do not enjoy an advantage over Republicans when it comes to the quality of their marriages.”

Photo: Republican or Democrat? Katsu Nojiri via Flickr


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