Friday, March 11, 2016

Who's crazier--the Left or the Right?

Three incidents struck me this week. On Tuesday I thought, "My students are always telling me about all the psychotropic medications they are on. Sociology majors are a screwed up bunch."  Then today, a student who over the past few weeks confessed a long list of mental health problems claimed that today's Republicans are mentally ill. Another student followed her by saying you can find a "Republican Disorder" in the DSM-V.  Finally, I watched a video clip of protesters at Trump's canceled rally in Chicago today, and it occurred to me that lefties like my students often look like they have psychological issues, or at least use drugs. Maybe it's just my undergraduate education from 20 years ago. I was taught that a dirty and disheveled look is a predictor of mental deterioration.

So, as usual, I turn to the General Social Survey. Participants were asked how many days in the past month were poor mental health days for them. Here are the percentages that reported at least one bad day by political orientation:

Percent with at least one day of bad mental health in past month

Extremely liberal  52.4
Liberal  47.3
Slightly liberal  47.6
Moderate  44.7
Slightly conservative  43.7
Conservative  38.3
Extremely conservative  30.4

Craziness increases with degree of liberalism.  If we look at mean days instead, extreme liberals average 5.88 days per month. For extreme conservatives, it's only 2.44--less than half the liberal number.


  1. Might it be a good idea to control for, say, income. Controlling for race might be good too.

    Hopefully, this doesn't drive down n's too much.

  2. Anonymous5:08 AM

    I'd look at the variable "DISABLD5 - R HAS EMOTIONAL OR MENTAL DISABILITY" as another good variable to check, as it has a good sample size, and isn't likely to be liable to Liberals simply relabeling normal anger or sadness as poor mental health, as I'd hypothesize they'd be more likely to do.

    On the whole, people who are Liberal probably do engage with the mental health system, or to be people who have shifted their views to more socially compassionate ones in response to having a mental health problem, while the more stoic Conservatives with a more stigmatic view of mental health problems probably don't, and to otherwise have been more likely to be people who've had an "I'm alright Jack" sort of life.

    There was a post on the Marginal Revolution website where it mentioned - - "P [a complex variable, but derived from “Psychoticism”] is substantially correlated with conservative military and social attitudes, while Social Desirability is related to liberal social attitudes, and Neuroticism is related to liberal economic attitudes".

    Differences are probably small but sound plausible. The mental health problems with aggression and psychoticism that may correlate to Conservatism may not actually be the kind of things that cause the person with them to have problems rather than other people (more kind of, "Hey, maybe I'm unpleasantly aggressive to be around, but fuck the other guy anyway, I've got mine", until they seriously go to prison or something major happens). While the liberal mental problems, which cause problems for the actual person with the condition (mostly depression), push them towards seeking treatment.


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