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Abstract

Incivility in public discussions has received increasing attention from academic and popular commentators in recent years. In an effort to better understand the nature and determinants of such incivility, this study examined a 3-week census of articles and comments posted to a local newspaper's website—totaling more than 300 articles and 6,400 comments. The results of the content analysis show that incivility occurs frequently and is associated with key contextual factors, such as the topic of the article and the sources quoted within the article. We also find that, contrary to popular perceptions, frequent commenters are more civil than are infrequent commenters, and uncivil commenters are no less likely than civil commenters to use evidence in support of their claims.