Losers, Villains, and Violence: Political Attacks, Incivility, and Support for Political Violence

Ashley Muddiman, Benjamin R. Warner, Amy Schumacher-Rutherford


Political violence, while rare, continues to be a concern. Yet scholars have only recently begun testing the effects language might have on support for violence. This project examines whether different types of verbal political attacks—those related to personal- and public-level incivility—affect support for violence through perceptions of impoliteness and attributions of out-group malevolence. Two experiments conducted in the United States test the effects of political attacks in two contexts: Twitter and issue speeches. Across both studies, both types of attacks prompted perceptions of impoliteness and attributions of malevolence. In the speech context, both types of political attacks decreased support for violence through impoliteness perceptions, and personal-level incivility increased identification with violent likeminded protesters through malevolence attributions. Optimistically, attacks may make social norms salient to individuals, decreasing their support for other social norm violations, like violence. Less optimistically, attacks may increase identification with groups fighting back against the verbal attacker.


political violence, incivility, impoliteness, malevolence, experiment

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