Are you more likely to get a joke if you lean politically left or right? That's the question New York Times columnist John Tierney asks today, extending a line of inquiry popular this campaign season: the personality characteristics of ideologues.

Tierney cites a study by MIT behavioral scientist Dan Ariely, who ran 22 jokes by 285 Bostonians and discovered that, lo and behold, conservatives are better humored — at least about the funnies.

Those findings may come as a surprise in light of other research suggesting that conservatives are more close-minded, intolerant and allegedly scare more easily than liberals (but do keep neater quarters). Using a scale from 1 to 9, in which 1 indicated "not at all funny" and 9 was "hilarious," conservatives gave an average rating of 5 and liberals gave an average rating of 4.32 to three religious jokes Ariely told them, Tierney writes. Conservatives also liked the golf jokes better, as well as three "Deep Thoughts" by Jack Handey (who doesn't think that guy's a hoot?).

How reliable is this sort of study in measuring sense of humor, let alone as a personality characteristic of political ideology? The whole concept of funny, as one commenter points out on Tierney's blog, is subjective.

Ariely himself notes a neat twist on the stereotype that liberals have more fun with humor: "When we asked our respondents to self-report how funny they are, liberals indicated that they were funnier," he writes on his Predictably Irrational blog. "This means that liberals are not finding life to be funnier, but they think they are."

Guess that means the joke's on them.

(Image by iStockphoto/James Steidl)