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Civic Pride Makes People Happier Than Ethnic Pride

It turns out that the more inclusive your politics, the happier you'll be.


Patriotism looks different depending on how you spin it. It can create a fascist, racist monster, or it can be a symbol of justice and independence. The difference, according to a new global study published in Psychological Science, is the source of the pride in question. The study found that people who love their country for its laws and institutions, rather than its lineage, are happier.

The researchers surveyed 40,677 people from 31 countries to draw a distinction between ethnic pride, which stems from racial and religious affiliation, and civic pride—how the government functions. They found that the proudest ethnic nationalists' happiness barely surpassed that of people with the lowest level of civic pride, and that civic patriots' well-being was higher overall. One possible reason? Ethnic nationalists are less content to begin with, and therefore more likely to participate in racist and xenophobic behavior. Or, says one of the scholars, Matthew Wright, "more likely to lead the charge as their nation diversifies around them."


Wright is being diplomatic, but the study has major political implications—it pokes holes in the accepted wisdom that all kinds of patriotism leads to personal satisfaction. It turns out that the more inclusive you are, the happier you'll be. Civil pride lends itself to inclusive politics. It implies a respect for a country's laws and systems, which theoretically includes minorities and immigrants. Bigotry, on the other hand, won't earn you any friends, and it won't make you any less miserable, either.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user uhuru1701.

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