What are we to conclude from these three figures? Overall, conservatives are more likely than liberals to be happily married (Figure 3), simply because they’re more likely to be married in the first place (Figure 1). When we just compare married adults, ideology doesn’t appear to be related to marital happiness (Figure 2).

This is in contrast to partisanship, which our previous work shows is closely related to marital happiness. Partisanship and ideology are correlated in contemporary America, but the correlation isn’t perfect. The big difference is that 46 percent of Americans consider themselves to be Democrats, but only 28 percent are liberals (in contrast, there’s only a one percentage point difference between the proportion of conservatives and the proportion of Republicans).

More generally, this Institute for Family Studies research brief suggests that what happens in American family life is not solely about economic factors. Civil society, public policy, law, and culture matter, too. The data we present here are evidence that culture matters. Statistically speaking, ideology predicts marital status among Americans about as well as income or education. In other words, the story of why liberals are less likely to be married and conservatives are more likely to be married is about more than money.