The study, published in the journal Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, is the work of Jacob Vigil, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico. He gathered 701 undergrads at a university in Florida in the months before the 2008 election and had them fill out a survey. The survey touched on, among other things, the students' pasts, their political affiliations, the number of friends they have, and how much they trusted them and, by extension, the rest of society.
Vigil then had the participants look at photos of strangers' faces, whose expressions ranged from joy to sadness, fear to surprise, disgust to anger. Vigil asked the participants to interpret, among other things, how threatened they felt by the faces. He then took that data, and that which came from the completed surveys, and reached his conclusions about who's happy and why.
Republicans, the study says, feel more threatened by the people they don't know. But -- and this is as counterintuitive a "but" as you'll find -- Republicans end up having a larger circle of friends than Democrats. Vigil found that Republicans have a looser definition of friendship, one that doesn't rely as much on the sort of intimacy that Democrats favor. Republicans tend to find friends who will help them -- socially, and especially professionally -- so Republicans end up searching out more people. Their suspicions of who is threatening them may not be completely accurate, but it does serve a purpose: It thins the ranks of potential friends and leaves the Republicans happier with whom they decide upon, because these friends can help them.
Vigil tells AOL News that whether one is a Democrat or Republican, "it's all about our capacity for trustworthiness." If Republicans aren't threatened by you, they tend to like you, whereas Democrats don't seek out new people, even though they have greater compassion for them.
It's apparently always been this way. Another recent study shows that Republicans have been happier than Democrats lo these past 30 years. A third study finds that regardless of who holds political power, people who have more money, and worship a god regularly, "tend to be happier," write Paul Taylor, Cary Funk and Peyton Craghill of the Pew Research Center. To be happy, it would seem -- and many a liberal will be dismayed to know that George Will may have understood this first -- it is not enough to simply commiserate with society, as Democrats do. You need to try to use it to your advantage.