Publication date: July 2019
Source: Computers in Human Behavior, Volume 96
Author(s): Jason R. Popan, Lauren Coursey, Jesse Acosta, Jared Kenworthy
Incivility is common in Internet political discussions, but the effects of incivility during such discussions have been largely unexamined. We conducted a series of experiments to address the effect of political incivility on ratings of rational argument and evaluations of a political outgroup. Participants were randomly assigned to encounter ostensible political discussions in a 2(Manipulated Civility: civil or uncivil) X 2(Strength of Arguments: strong or weak) experimental design. We demonstrated that incivility in political exchanges has a large and negative effect on perceptions of the degree of rational argument present in the discussions, even in conditions with relatively stronger argument levels. We provided evidence that when levels of incivility in political discourse were particularly strong, perceptions of rationality for one’s political outgroup (liberals or conservative) decreased, which was inversely related to attitudes towards one’s outgroup. The implications of the dominance of incivility during political discussion are discussed.