The Gender Gap in Online News Comment Sections

Emily Van Duyn, Cynthia Peacock, Natalie Jomini Stroud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Women are less likely than men to discuss or engage in politics. This study extends research on the gender gap in politics to an online context by exploring whether women are less likely to engage in political discussion online, whether this follows socialization theories of a private versus public sphere distinction, and whether perceptions of incivility help to explain these gender differences. Through a survey of commenters and comment readers based on a probability sample in the United States (n = 965) and a survey of actual commenters and comment readers across 20 news sites (n = 12,110), we find that women are less likely than men to comment online, particularly on state, national, or international topics. However, women are more likely than men to comment on local news. We also find that perceptions of incivility are related to commenting, although they do little to explain gender differences in commenting. Our results suggest that the gender gap in online political discussion is the product of women’s political socialization more so than the civility of the site.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-196
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Science Computer Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • comment sections
  • deliberative democracy
  • gender
  • political discussion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Law
  • Computer Science Applications


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