May the happiest candidate win

Politics aside, last night the most positive of the two US presidential candidates won. This is no coincidence, as research by Martin Seligman shows:

Psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania have measured what they call the level of pessimism in the nomination acceptance speeches by candidates in 1948 and in every succeeding Presidential campaign. They found that, with one exception, the more optimistic candidate won.

It is not clear, however, whether a hopeful message alone leads to victory or if it is merely a powerful signal of factors that voters find appealing.

The candidate who offered the greater message of hope won 9 of the 10 elections studied, according to Harold Zullow and Martin Seligman, psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania. And even in the exception, the 1968 race, the ebullient Hubert H. Humphrey came from 14 points behind in the polls to within one percentage point of defeating Richard M. Nixon.

More here. Mind you, this study is from waaaay before Obama and his platform of hope. The study is also referenced in Seligman’s book Learned Optimism (read my review), which is one of my all-time favorite books about happiness.

“Yes we can” is not just a slogan for the ages, it’s the optimist’s fundamental creed. Optimists don’t deny that bad things happen, they just believe that they can cope with them which of course means that they cope much better than pessimists.

4 thoughts on “May the happiest candidate win”

  1. People are always attracted to positivity, especially in their leaders. As soon as McCain’s campaign went the negative route, things went downhill for him. Obama’s message was positive and full of hope. I want to believe, “Yes We Can!”

  2. Pingback: A happy mayor

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