Engaged and Uncivil? Incivility and Engagement on Twitter Over a Televised Presidential Debate in Chile

Andrés Rosenberg, Magdalena Saldaña, William Porath


Although political talk on Twitter has been described as toxic and uncivil, Twitter offers a space for users to engage in deliberative expression during live political events. By relying on a content analysis of 2,000 tweets posted during a televised presidential debate in Chile, this study quantifies the presence of uncivil, humorous/sarcastic, and deliberative expressions in the debate-related live-tweeting, observing how such expression triggers user engagement measured as likes and retweets. Our results suggest that humor/sarcasm is more common than uncivil expression, with users being sarcastic toward candidates and mocking debate-related situations. Surprisingly, we found that male candidates were more likely than female candidates to receive hostile mentions, suggesting that factors other than (or in addition to) gender might explain the extent to which political figures are the target of uncivil speech. We also found that deliberative tweets are more likely to be liked and retweeted by other users. Implications and future research are discussed.


incivility, humor/sarcasm, deliberation, user engagement, presidential debates, Twitter

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