People at the extremes are happier than political moderates. Correcting for income, education, age, race, family situation and religion, the happiest Americans are those who say they are either “extremely conservative” (48 percent very happy) or “extremely liberal” (35 percent). Everyone else is less happy, with the nadir at dead-center “moderate” (26 percent).

Conservatives Are Happier, and Extremists Are Happiest of All – There’s a reason why moderates are the unhappiest: they — we, I think it’s fair to say, though my politics tends to be an aggregation of liberal and conservative positions rather than a consistently middle-of-the-road stance — are always getting caught in the crossfire of the sneering, mocking, and name-calling that are the extremists’ stock-in-trade. I’ve been discovering this recently through the controversy about the HHS contraception mandate, which many religious institutions, including my employer, are resisting. I explained a few days ago why I support this resistance, and it seems, from reading leftish (including leftish Christian) blogs that I couldn’t possibly hold my views in good faith. A person who thinks as I do about this must be either “ignorant” or a “lying hack,” one blogger suggests — well, actually, several bloggers suggest. Or insist. Or shout.

On the other hand, if I had chosen to support the HHS mandate, or at least declined to protest it, which was a position I considered very seriously, I would be “out to destroy American Christianity” and an “enemy of religious freedom.”

It’s comforting, no doubt, to think that everyone who disagrees with you does so either out of intellectual deficiency or mendacity; as long as you convince yourself of that you can believe that there are no really difficult questions and that every problem has an ideal solution. Those particular illusions are dear to most people, and anyone who disrupts them gets punished. Moreover (I theorize) the moderate who disagrees with you is more troublesome than the person at the opposite extreme, since that moderate has probably agreed with you about some issues in the past and has therefore appeared to be a rational person, so the current disagreement seems like a betrayal, and one of the worst kinds of betrayal: the cruel revelation that the world is more complicated than you thought it was. This, I think, is why the people I follow on Twitter hate David Brooks more than any other columnist (and in many cases “hate” is not too strong a word): whoever they are, they’ve probably seen him be right about some things, so when he’s wrong it’s just insufferable. It disrupts the pigeonholes.

I wonder if moderates were as unhappy before they had to deal with the blast-furnaces of internet hatred? I’d like to think that there were Good Old Days when moderate or ideologically variable positions were received with more good will, or at least polite silence. That probably isn’t true, but at least back in the day contempt didn’t come furnished with a digital megaphone.