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Divide and Conquer: Why do Politicians Tolerate Incivility?

Thu, August 29, 8:00 to 9:30am, Hilton, Gunston East

Abstract

Why do politicians tolerate incivility in social media interactions with the electorate? Why do they use
more polarizing language? We argue that both questions can be answered in a uniform way; politicians
post polarized tweets to grab attention and potentially benefit from the incivility and commotion they
induce. We empirically show this pattern using crowdsourced measures of both polarization and incivility
across the US and the UK. Our findings show that incivility in public commentary today induces
polarization tomorrow and this pattern is beneficial for political users of the platform. We discuss the
implications of both polarization and incivility for democratic discourse.

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