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The Polarizing Potential of Intergroup Affect in Online Political Discussions: Evidence From Reddit r/Politics

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Document pages: 37 pages

Abstract: Online political polarization — the idea that most online discussions take place in ideological silos — is a widespread source of concern among social scientists. Yet, there is still little understanding of the mechanisms that promote or mitigate insular patterns of discussion over time. Drawing on social identity and inter-group emotions theory, this paper examines the role of inter-group affective factors in driving like-minded and cross-ideological engagement in a political discussion forum. Results show that the presence of directed political incivility in interactions between dissimilar users tends to discourage further cross-ideological engagement. Conversely, interactions in which ideologically like-minded users engage in derogation of the out-group are less likely to be sustained in the short term. Implications for the study of online political communication dynamics are discussed.

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