While the topic of life satisfaction and its determinants has drawn increasing attention among political scientists, most studies have focused mainly on macro-level variables, and often overlooked the role of individuals' attitudes vis-à-vis their governments. The present article attempts to fill this gap by examining whether citizens' left-right self-placement and ideological distance from their governments exert an independent effect on life satisfaction. Utilizing a dataset spanning a quarter century and containing nearly 70,000 respondents, we demonstrate a curvilinear relationship between ideological orientations and happiness, with self-identified radicals on both ends of the spectrum happier than moderate citizens. Moreover, we show that while propinquity between self-position and government position contributes to happiness, this effect is highly mediated by individual locations along the left-right spectrum: centrists report higher levels of happiness the closer they are to their government, while the opposite is true for radicals. The normative implication of our findings is that moderate governments may present a comparative advantage in enhancing the overall level of happiness of their citizens.
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