New research released by the Institute for Family Studies finds that conservatives tend to be more “completely satisfied” with their own family lives compared to their liberal friends and neighbors.  Forty-one percent of both liberals and moderates report being “completely satisfied” with their own family lives while 52% of conservatives do. Conservatives are also vastly more likely than liberals to believe that marriage is essential in creating and maintaining strong families. They are also much more likely to actually be married, 62% vs. 39%. 

These scholars explain that when measuring basic life characteristics such as family income, marital status, age, educational attainment, race/ethnicity, and church attendance, being a conservative increases the odds of being “completely satisfied with family life” by 23%, a very considerable positive impact given the centrality of all of these other factors. Married men and women who believe “marriage is needed to create strong families” have 67% greater odds of being completely content with their own family life than those married couples who do not believe this. These data demonstrate the very real, and positive consequences that one’s beliefs have in establishing and maintaining family contentment.

When asked why conservatives have these more positive feelings, these scientists contend that “Conservatives’ higher family satisfaction can be partly attributed to the fact they are more likely than others to be married (and married people are generally more satisfied with their family life).” They add, “Other factors, such as religion, may also play a role.”

Additionally, conservatives tend to have more negative beliefs about the state of marriage compared to moderates or liberals. When asked if they believe divorce has increased in the last 10 years, 56% of conservatives said it has while 49% of liberals did. 

The truth is that divorce has been declining since its highpoint in the mid-1980s so both are more pessimistic than reality dictates. Conservatives were also much more likely to believe that marriages in the United States are weaker today than they have been in the past, but just short of a majority of them believe this.

So why do conservatives who are very positive on their own families tend to hold less hopeful beliefs about the family in general? It’s a very interesting question. One reason could be that those who care deeply about something tend to fret more about its well-being in general and thus give greater attention to its weaknesses. A serious athlete is seldom satisfied with her performance, believing she’s falling behind when she is actually doing quite well. A diligent groundskeeper focuses more on the weak areas of his property than those that are thriving. They are the ones that demand his attention. This is the case with those who deeply value the family as an essential community resource. The more we care about something, giving personal attention to its well-being, the more we are inclined to focus our attention on the weakest parts of it. The family in American today can use more of these kinds of people.