But a new study suggests they don’t act in ways that indicate they really are, the New York Times reports.
The researchers said the previously-held belief was based on the self reports of people in the surveys — asking people if they’re happy. This time, they looked at actual behaviors. Smiling, for example.
The researchers examined two behaviors linked to happiness: smiling and using positive language. For their subject pool, they chose large groups whose political leanings could be identified with some reliability, including members of Congress and users of Twitter and LinkedIn.
One study analyzed the emotional content of more than 430 million words entered in the Congressional Record over 18 years. Liberal-leaning politicians, the researchers found, were more likely to use positive words and no more likely to use sad or negative words.
Political ideology in the study was defined by the speaker’s voting record or party affiliation.
The study also examined publicly available photographs of 533 members of Congress, finding that conservative politicians were less likely than liberals to display smiles involving facial muscles around the eyes, a measure that previous research has found to be associated with genuine emotion.
The research will almost certainly reignite debate over which side of the partisan aisle is happier — and spawn further studies, the Times says.
Do it with a smile.