The Effects of Personality Traits and Situational Factors on the Deliberativeness and Civility of User Comments on News Websites
Comment sections have become an integral part of digital journalism. They enable users to share their viewpoints and discuss news issues with others. From a deliberative perspective, there is controversy regarding the democratic benefits of comment sections. Though previous research analyzed causes and effects of uncivil and low-quality comments, it is not clear what makes users contribute deliberative and civil comments. The present study combines data from an online survey and a content analysis of the comments that the survey participants provided to investigate the relative importance of personality traits and situational states for commenting behavior. The findings show that the quality of user comments is both a matter of personality traits and situational states. Incivility was found to be triggered mainly by sadistic personality traits and specific article topics, whereas deliberative comments result from high levels of agreeableness, cognitive involvement, and from low levels of extraversion and positive affect.