Uncivil online environments, anger at political out-groups, and strengthened preferences for in-groups
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How does the Internet shape relations between political factions within society? This paper argues that free use of the Internet by politicians, organizations and ordinary citizens for political discourse and activity contributes to the aggravation of hostility between political factions within society, and to the strengthening of citizen preferences for political in-groups over out-groups. Online political interactions lack the constraints against transgressive discourse that are present offline, affording participants wider latitude to engage in rhetoric ranging from impoliteness to calls for violence in the course of political debates. Citizens’ exposure to such conduct from political opponents breeds anger towards out-group members and a stronger relative preference for the in-group. I utilize survey data from Tunisia 2016, finding evidence that use of the Internet increases the probability that Tunisian Islamists and secularists feel strong anger towards their political opponents and identify more strongly with their own faction.
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