Despite my general cynicism, I'm a big proponent of hope: present circumstances may go up and down, but the future is bright! As a Christian my hope is in Jesus Christ, and as an American my hope is in the ideal that hard work and tenacity can improve any situation.
Believing in mobility helps make people happy, then. But does mobility actually exist in the United States? The Left doesnâ€™t think so. Liberals, including rich liberals, are far less likely than conservatives to see a better future for people who work hard. Just 26 percent of liberals with incomes above the national average believe that thereâ€™s a lot of upward income mobility in America, versus 48 percent of conservatives with below-average incomes. And 90 percent of the poorer conservatives said that hard work and perseverance could overcome disadvantage, versus 65 percent of the richer liberals. If a liberal and a conservative are exactly identical in income, education, sex, family situation, and race, the liberal will still be 20 percentage points less likely than the conservative to say that hard work leads to success for the disadvantaged.
It is small wonder, then, that conservatives tend to be happier than liberals today. The 2004 GSS showed that 44 percent of people who identified themselves as â€œconservativeâ€ or â€œextremely conservativeâ€ were â€œvery happyâ€ about their lives; only 25 percent of self-identified liberals or extreme liberals gave that response. Conservatives believe that they live in a more promising country than liberals do, and that makes them happier.
This matches with my experience. The people I know who are happy aren't the ones who never face any difficult circumstances, but rather are the people who persevere in hope no matter what life throws at them. Sometimes this is extremely hard, and goes rather against my nature, but I work at it every day. I've been hopeless before, and it sucked, and I decided that I wasn't going to go down that road again no matter what.