Study suggests boredom leads to extreme political views

24 Jun 2016

A piece of research from the University of Limerick (UL) has suggested that boredom may be a key contributing factor in people’s support for political extremes.

I always thought extreme political thinking emerged from hardship but, according to a paper published this week, the true cause could be something altogether more mundane.

Simple boredom could be crucial. That’s what UL’s Dr Eric Igou claims in his research, on which he collaborated with Wijnand van Tilburg from King’s College in London.

“It is not pleasant to be bored,” begins the research, rather quaintly, which saw more than 1,000 people take part in three separate studies.

The first study was of just under 100 students, however, given that’s a section of society far more likely to be politically enthusiastic or extreme, it’s best we leave that to one side.

The second study, though, saw more than 850 people living in Ireland questioned on their political leanings, comparing that with their proneness to being bored.

Working out the likelihood of boredom was attempted through a series of questions like “Having to look at someone’s home movies or travelling slides bores me tremendously”; 1=never, 7=most of the time.

The results showed high levels of boredom correlate with rather more extreme political views, particularly those on the conservative, right-wing side of the spectrum.

A third study looked at subjects’ pursuit of meaning, with the three combining to form a picture of situational boredom “associated with and leading to the endorsement of more extreme political orientations”.

“These studies show that political views are, in part, based on boredom and the need to counteract these negative, existential experiences with ideologies that seem to provide meaning in life,” said Igou, calling the implications of his findings “obvious”.

“Possibly politically radicalised individuals and groups are, at least to some degree, driven by boredom experiences in their everyday lives as an attempt to make life seem more meaningful.”

Boredom image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic