Predicting perceptions of incivility across 20 news comment sections

Emily Van Duyn, Ashley Muddiman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research on incivility has focused on individual differences or message characteristics that affect perceptions of incivility. Given the potential consequences of incivility in news spaces, it is essential to extend research on incivility perceptions to characteristics of digital news environments. We explore how the perception and availability of comment section features (i.e. comment moderation and anonymity), as well as a feeling of connection with a comment section community, relate to commenters and comment readers’ incivility perceptions. By recruiting survey respondents from a population of individuals who read or post comments on one of 20 diverse news sites, we demonstrate that features of commenting spaces, and especially the feelings of connection formed in those spaces, relate to perceptions of incivility. We find that perceptions of comment section features relate to perceptions of incivility more so than the actual availability of these features. Our findings offer implications for newsrooms looking to foster perceptions of civility in comment sections and protect the value of their journalism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-152
Number of pages19
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Communication
  • connection
  • digital news
  • reader comments
  • user comments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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