Advertisement

Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 63–78 | Cite as

Life Satisfaction and Political Participation: Evidence from the United States

  • Patrick FlavinEmail author
  • Michael J. Keane
Article

Abstract

Are people who are more satisfied with their lives more likely to participate in politics? Although the literature on political participation in the United States is one of the most theoretically and methodologically developed in political science, little research has sought to incorporate subjective life satisfaction into models of political participation. Instead, life satisfaction has been studied nearly exclusively as a dependent variable. By turning to life satisfaction as an independent variable, we contribute to the literatures on both political participation and life satisfaction. Using survey data, we find that individuals who are more satisfied with their lives are more likely to turn out to vote and participate in the political process through other avenues, and that the magnitude of this relationship rivals that of education. We also find that the relationship between life satisfaction and political participation is confined to “non-conflictual” forms of participation, and exhibits no relationship with the decision to engage in political protest.

Keywords

Political science Effects of life satisfaction 

References

  1. Abramson, P. R., & Aldrich, J. H. (1982). The decline of electoral participation in America. American Political Science Review, 76(3), 502–521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bahry, D., & Silver, B. (1990). Soviet citizen participation on the eve of democratization. American Political Science Review, 84(3), 821–848.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barnes, S., Farah, B. G., & Heunks, F. (1979). Personal dissatisfaction. In S. Barnes, M. Kaase, & K. R. Allerbeck (Eds.), Political action: Mass participation in five western democracies. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  4. Barnes, S., & Kaase, M. (1979). Political action. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  5. Blanchflower, D. G., & Oswald, A. J. (2000). Well-being over time in Britain and the USA. National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 7487.Google Scholar
  6. Carnevale, P. J. D., & Isen, A. M. (1986). The influence of positive affect and visual access on the discovery of integrative solutions in bilateral negotiation. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 37, 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Easterlin, R. A. (1995). Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all? Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 27, 35–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ehrhardt, J. J., Saris, W. E., & Veenhoven, R. (2000). Stability of life satisfaction over time. Journal of Happiness Studies, 1(2), 177–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ferriss, A. L. (2002). Religion and the quality of life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 3(3), 199–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Flavin, P., & Griffin, J. D. (2009). Policy, preferences, and participation: Government’s impact on democratic citizenship. Journal of Politics, 71(2), 544–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gamson, W. A. (1968). Power and discontent. Homeward: Dorsey.Google Scholar
  12. Gove, W. R., Hughes, M., & Style, C. B. (1983). Does marriage have positive effects on the psychological well-being of the individual? Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24(2), 122–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Healy, A. J., Malhotra, N., & Mo, C. H. (2009). Personal emotions and political decision making: Implications for voter competence. Stanford University Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 2034.Google Scholar
  14. Helliwell, J. F., & Putnam, R. D. (2004). The social context of well-being. The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 359, 1435–1446.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hiskey, J. T., & Bowler, S. (2005). Local context and democratization in Mexico. American Journal of Political Science, 49(1), 57–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Inglehart, R. (1977). The silent revolution: Changing values and political styles among western publics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Inglehart, R. (1990). Culture shift in advanced industrial society. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Isen, A. M. (1970). Success, failure, attention, and reactions to others: The warm glow of success. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 15, 294–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Isen, A. M., Daubman, K. A., & Nowicki, G. P. (1987). Positive affect facilitates creative problem solving. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 1122–1131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Isen, A. M., Johnson, M. M., Mertz, E., & Robinson, G. F. (1985). The influence of positive affect on the unusualness of word associations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 1413–1426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Isen, A. M., & Levin, P. F. (1972). The effects of ‘Feeling Good’ on helping: Cookies and kindness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 21, 384–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Isen, A. M., Rosenzweig, A. S., & Young, M. J. (1991). The influence of positive affect on clinical problem solving. Medical Decision Making, 11, 221–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Isen, A. M., Shalker, T. E., Clark, Ma., & Karp, L. (1978). Affect, accessibility of material in memory, and behavior: A cognitive loop? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kasser, T. & Ryan, R. M. (1993). The dark side of the American dream: Correlates of financial success as a central life aspiration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 410–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Marcus, G. E., & Mackuen, M. B. (1993). Anxiety, enthusiasm, and the vote: The emotional underpinnings of learning and involvement during presidential campaigns. American Political Science Review, 87(3), 672–685.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Milbrath, L. W., & Goel, M. L. (1977). Political participation: How and why do people get involved in politics? (2nd ed.). Chicago: Rand McNally.Google Scholar
  27. Myers, D. G., & Diener, E. (1995). Who is happy? Psychological Science, 6(1), 10–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nakhaie, M. R. (2006). Electoral participation in municipal, provincial and federal elections in Canada. Canadian Journal of Political Science, 39(2), 363–390.Google Scholar
  29. Oswald, A. J. (1997). Happiness and economic performance. The Economic Journal, 107, 1815–1831.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pacek, A., & Radcliff, B. (2008). Assessing the welfare state: The politics of happiness. Perspectives on Politics, 6(2), 267–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Patterson, S., & Caldeira, G. (1984). The etiology of partisan competition. American Political Science Review, 78(3), 691–707.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Powell, G. B. (1986). American voter turnout in comparative perspective. American Political Science Review, 80, 17–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and survival of American community. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  34. Radcliff, B. (2001). Politics, markets, and life satisfaction: The political economy of human happiness. American Political Science Review, 95(4), 939–952.Google Scholar
  35. Rosenstone, S. J., & Hansen, J. M. (1993). Mobilization, participation, and democracy in America. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  36. Rudolph, T. J., Gangl, A., & Stevens, D. (2000). The effects of efficacy and emotions on campaign involvement. Journal of Politics, 62(4), 1189–1197.Google Scholar
  37. Shaffer, S. D. (1981). A multivariate explanation of decreasing turnout in presidential elections, 1960–1976. American Journal of Political Science, 25, 68–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Teixeira, R. (1992). The disappearing American voter. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
  39. Tomz, M., King, G., & Zeng, L. (1999). RELOGIT: Rare events logistic regression. Version 1.1. Harvard University. Accessed at http://gking.harvard.edu/.
  40. Tomz, M., Wittenberg, J., & King, G. (2003). CLARIFY: Software for interpreting and presenting statistical results. Version 2.1. Stanford University, University of Wisconsin, and Harvard University. Accessed at http://gking.harvard.edu/.
  41. Veenhoven, R. (1984). Conditions of happiness. Boston: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Veenhoven, R. (1988). The utility of happiness. Social Indicators Research, 20(4), 333–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Verba, S., Schlozman, K. L., & Brady, H. (1995). Voice and equality: Civic voluntarism in American politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Vowles, J. (2002). Offsetting the PR Effect? Party mobilization and turnout decline in New Zealand, 1996–1999. Party Politics, 8(5), 587–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Weitz-Shapiro, R., & Winters, M. S. (2008). Political participation and quality of life. Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department, Working Paper #638.Google Scholar
  46. Wolfinger, R. E., & Rosenstone, S. J. (1980). Who votes?. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Zhong, Y., & Chen, J. (2002). To vote or not to vote: An analysis of peasants’ participation in Chinese village elections. Comparative Political Studies, 35(6), 686–712.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Baylor UniversityWacoUSA
  2. 2.ChicagoUSA

Personalised recommendations