According to data from the last four November Gallup Health and Healthcare polls, Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or independents to rate their mental health as excellent. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans report having excellent mental health, compared to 43% of independents and just 38% of Democrats.
What is more, this relationship between party identification and reports of excellent mental health is evident even within sub-categories of income, age, gender, church attendance, and education.
How can this be explained?
Does mental health improve on joining the GOP? Does a healthy psyche predispose an individual towards becoming a Republican? Or perhaps, are Republicans just more likely to be convinced of their own virtue and sanity?
Previous Gallup research has shown strong correlations between mental health and income. Given that Republicans tend to be wealthier than Democrats, part of the explanation of the relationship between having better mental health and being a Republican may be explained by this underlying factor.
However, the key finding of the most recent Gallup analyses is that being a Republican appears to have an independent relationship on positive mental health above and beyond what can be explained by demographic and lifestyle variables.
I think it was Saul Bellow who wrote (in Herzog) that having an answer to every question was the sure sign of being a fool. The wise know what they do not know. Perhaps Republicans aren’t smarter after all – just victims of the (understandable) desire to impress the pollsters and appear informed and well-adjusted.
This finding is unlikely to have much of an effect on next year’s presidential election – but maybe, just maybe, the Republicans’ lack of self-doubt will stand them in better stead when the mud seriously starts to fly. The way things are looking, we’ll be able to tell soon enough.