Comparing levels of incivility across religious and political blog posts
Mendenhall, Doug L.
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Levels of incivility in 1,200 messages posted on the blogs of 30 religious and/or political websites during the 2012 presidential election year were compared, as were comments made about those messages. To capture this latent construct in a systematic reliable manner, this comparison was accomplished by creating a scale for incivility within the software program Diction 7.0, which has been used in a variety of research settings to quantitatively measure dozens of factors in the tone of messages. Validity of the formula used to gauge civility was demonstrated via a pretest using 10 blog posts, which showed that results of this Diction 7.0 construct are strongly correlated to results of a survey of university students instructed to use a four-part rubric based on a centrist definition of incivility. Official blogs of leading U.S. Christian denominations were shown to have significantly less incivility (or were more civil) than leading U.S. political websites. However, no difference in incivility was found between leading Christian websites not officially attached to a denomination and leading political sites. Conversely, comments appended to the unofficial Christian posts were shown to have no significant difference in incivility when compared to comments appended to the official Christian denomination posts. Results are explained using a social identity perspective.