Negative life events such as losing one's job or dealing with an illness may lead people to adopt more extreme political views, a new study suggests.
"Over the last few years there is a general feeling that a more rigid form of politics is emerging," said Daniel Randles, from the University of Toronto in Canada.
"It is possible that more extreme candidates are becoming popular because the people who support them have a growing number of challenges in their lives that they were not expecting," Randles said.
Researchers drew on an existing survey of about 1,600 Americans who were repeatedly polled between 2006 and 2008.
For the survey, participants were asked about their political attitudes as well as negative events they faced in their personal lives to see if their attitudes changed following adversity, researchers said.
The unexpected negative life events ranged from divorce, illness, injury and assault to even loss of a job.
Researchers found that regardless of where people stand on the political spectrum - left or right - adverse life events hardened their leanings either way.
"After facing adversity, these respondents were not saying about an issue. 'Maybe this is OK.' They were either saying,'This is definitely OK,' or, 'This is definitely not OK,'" said Randles.
"It is not an on/off switch. It is a slow movement towards either end of the spectrum based on negative experiences. There is no exact number of events that can cause the effect," Randles said.
"If people believe that something about their world has suddenly changed, they will look for things in the world that are still intact," he said.
The study was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
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