Political Campaign Ads on Facebook: Investigating the Effects of Incivility in Videos and User Comments on Affective Polarization and Mobilization

Taberez Ahmed Neyazi, Ozan Kuru, Subhayan Mukerjee


Uncivil campaign ads on social media may polarize and mobilize voters, both directly and indirectly, by fueling affective polarization in user comments. Uncivil campaign content may trigger uncivil comments, thereby further increasing polarization and mobilization. To test the effects of such dynamics, we conducted a survey experiment during the assembly elections in the Indian state of West Bengal in March–April 2021 (N = 921). We edited real campaign video ads on Facebook and manipulated their sources (one of two parties: Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] vs. All India Trinamool Congress [AITC or TMC]), incivility in the video (civil/uncivil), as well as incivility in user comments (civil/uncivil), and examined their effects on affective polarization and political mobilization. We found party identification to be the strongest predictor of affective polarization, with ad incivility playing only a limited role. Our findings help extend the debates on affective polarization in the context of social media, which are becoming increasingly prominent in political campaigns and provides empirical evidence from a non-Western context.


affective polarization, incivility, social media, political participation, India

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