Who Is More Tolerant of Political Incivility?

Much research investigates the nature and incidence of political incivility and perceptions of incivility (e.g., Sobieraj & Berry, 2011, 2013; Fridkin & Kenney, 2011; Massaro & Stryker, 2012; Muddiman, 2013; Weber Shandwick, KRC Research, & Powell Tate, 2013; Stryker, Conway, & Danielson, 2014; Hmielowski, Hutchens, & Cicchirillo, 2015).  Some scholars presume that political incivility, especially by disadvantaged and marginalized persons, is necessary to ensure that democratic decision-making is sufficiently inclusive (e.g., Sapiro, 1999; Mendelberg, 2009; Harcourt, 2012).  But most communication and political science researchers emphasize instead how political incivility can harm democracy.  

Harmful consequences associated with political incivility include extreme elite partisan polarization and the incapacity to work collaboratively on behalf of the American people, gridlock on urgent policy issues, and the political alienation of some citizens and hyper-partisanship of others. Harms also include reduced trust in government, diminished legitimacy of government and of opposing points of view, and heightened negative affect between Republicans and Democrats that, at least among highly committed partisans, spills over to enhance preference for self-segregation in residence, work, and marriage (Jamieson, 1992; Ansolabehere & Iyengar, 1997; Mutz, 2006; Sobieraj & Berry, 2011, 2013; Massaro & Stryker, 2012; Pew Research Center, 2014; Kahn & Kenney, 1999; Forgette & Morris, 2006; Mutz & Reeves, 2005; Mutz, 2007; Fridkin & Kenney, 2008; Bishop, 2009; Mann & Ornstein, 2012; Abramowitz, 2013; Hutchens, Cicchirillo, & Hmielowski, 2014). Those with little tolerance for political incivility may avoid politics.  Or they may isolate themselves in like-minded communities where they may be less likely to encounter incivility but also will be less likely to bond or engage in political discussion with others who do not share their political ideology or partisanship (Pew Research Center, 2014).  Conversely, those with high tolerance for incivility may contribute disproportionately to hyper-partisanship and political polarization (Kahn & Kenney, 1999; Mutz, 2007; Stryker, 2011).

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