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The Dynamics of Political Incivility on Twitter

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sebastian Popa



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Online incivility and harassment in political communication have become an important topic of concern amongpoliticians, journalists and academics. This study provides a descriptive account of uncivil interactions between citizens and politicians on Twitter. We develop a conceptual framework for understanding the dynamics of incivility at three distinct levels: macro (temporal), meso (contextual), and micro (individual). Using longitudinal data from the Twitter communication mentioning Members of Congress in the U.S. across a time-span of over a year and relying onsupervised machine learning methods and topic models, we offer new insights about the prevalence and dynamicsof incivility towards legislators. We find that uncivil tweets represent consistently around 18% of all tweets mentioninglegislators, but with spikes that correspond to controversial policy debates and political events. Although we findevidence of coordinated attacks, our analysis reveals that the use of uncivil language is common to a large number ofusers.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Theocharis Y, Barbera P, Fazekas Z, Popa SA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Sage Open

Year: 2020

Volume: 10

Issue: 2

Pages: 1-15

Online publication date: 13/02/2020

Acceptance date: 10/01/2020

Date deposited: 11/02/2020

ISSN (print): 2158-2440

ISSN (electronic): 2158-2440

Publisher: Sage


DOI: 10.1177/2158244020919447


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