Partisan media—typically characterized by incivility—has become a defining element of the American political communication environment. While scholars have explored the consequences of partisan media for political attitudes and behaviors, little work has looked at how variations in incivility moderate partisan media’s effects. Using a population-based survey experiment, we show that incivility affectively depolarizes partisans when it comes from an in-party source (e.g., MSNBC for Democrats, Fox News for Republicans). Incivility on out-party sources affectively polarizes the audience, however, and we show that the respondent’s degree of conflict aversion conditions these effects. Our results raise intriguing normative questions about the trade-offs between polarization and incivility and highlight how scholars must account for both levels of incivility and partisan slant when studying the effects of partisan media.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science