Study Shows People Who Keep Track of Political News Are Less Happy Than Those Who Don’t

by Christian Schneider

If you’re reading this column, you’re probably pretty miserable. (You’re only one sentence in — trust me, it gets worse.)

You see, if you clicked on this article or picked up a newspaper to read it, you are most likely someone who follows politics. You’re plugged in. You need information to make sense of the world.

But statistically, you’re also more likely to be unhappy than someone who doesn’t follow the news at all.  According to a data dive earlier this year by American Enterprise Institute president Arthur C. Brooks, people who were “very interested in politics” were about eight percentage points more likely to report they were “not too happy” about life. And the data Brooks used was from 2014 — well before Hurricane Donald sent everyone scurrying to their partisan bunkers.

Other data further illuminate the dyspepsia of the plugged-in. According to a March 2016 Gallup poll, only 30% of Republicans thought the election process was working as it should; by a two-to-one margin, American citizens think the country is headed in the wrong direction. President Donald Trump’s approval ratings are gasping to stay above 40%, while the only way for Congress to improve their reputation might be to sign Colin Kaepernick.

That’s why in 2017, it makes sense that those glued to politics are less happy; the entire system is now set up to belittle and degrade those with differing opinions, and the incentives are greatest for the inveterately obnoxious. The president is just as likely to name a pan of lasagna to a federal appeals court as he is to broker a budget deal, leaving the average political observer scrolling through Maggie Haberman’s Twitter feed with their phone in one hand and a cyanide pill in the other. (And if you nodded at that observation, you are, by definition, addicted to politics.)

As always, social media is to blame for much of our misery. The online world is a constant pageant of the theatrically aggrieved, pummeling the insufficiently enlightened with humiliation and mockery. Even the First Lady of the United States can’t volunteer to help hurricane victims without subjecting herself to ridicule for wearing high heels while boarding her plane to Texas. (One soul-deadening Washington Post column accused Trump of serving up “a fashion moment instead of an expression of empathy.”)

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Christian Schneider is a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors. Follow him on Twitter @Schneider_CM