Incivility in Online Political Discourse and Anti-Deliberative Attitudes: An Experimental Analysis
43 Pages Posted: 12 Aug 2013 Last revised: 4 Jul 2014
Date Written: 2013
With the advances in interpersonal communication of the “Web 2.0” era, questions about the importance of civility are perhaps more important than ever. Mass digital interaction between strangers has become an everyday occurrence, bound by few behavioral norms. I argue that the widespread presence of incivility in online political communication limits the deliberative potential of online interactions. To test this hypothesis, I manipulate exposure to uncivil political discourse in an online discussion forum, I find that exposure to disagreeable uncivil political talk induces feelings of anger and aversion, which in turn lead to anti-deliberative attitudes - including reduced satisfaction and willingness to compromise. On the other hand, exposure to like-minded incivility increases the use of uncivil behavior in political comments by message board posters. I discuss why like-minded and disagreeable incivility have different effects, and reflect on what the presence of incivility means for online political discourse.
Keywords: incivility, online discourse, political communication, digital democracy, political psychology
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