State Resident Neuroticism Accounts for Life Satisfaction Differences Between Conservative and Liberal States of the USA

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Abstract

Past research indicates associations between higher conservatism and higher life satisfaction, lower neuroticism and higher life satisfaction, and higher conservatism and lower neuroticism. Qualified deduction led to the following hypothesis: Neuroticism can account for the association between higher conservatism and higher life satisfaction. The 50 American states served as the units of analysis. Responses of 619,397 residents to the 44-item Big Five Inventory in an internet survey conducted from 1999 to 2005 provided mean neuroticism scores for each state. Conservative-liberal leaning of over 84,000 respondents to CBS News/New York Times polls from 1999 to 2003 and the percent voting Republican in each state in the 2000 to 2008 presidential elections combined to form a conservatism score for each state. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index provided life satisfaction scores for over 1,000,000 respondents, transforming to a 2008 to 2010 composite score for each state. In a sequential multiple regression equation with life satisfaction as the criterion, state socioeconomic status and white population percent entered first as a block, conservatism entered second, and neuroticism entered third, the demographic controls accounted for 45.7% of the variance, conservatism accounted for another 10.4%, and neuroticism accounted for an additional 10.6%. However, with the entry order of conservatism and neuroticism reversed, neuroticism accounted for another 19.6% but conservatism accounted for only an additional nonsignificant 1.4%. Therefore, the hypothesis was supported. Three alternative explanations suggested by other researchers were not supported in the state-level analysis.

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