Linking Exposure to Uncivil Online Comments to Decreased Political Knowledge: The Mediating Role of Active News Avoidance

Alberto Ardèvol-Abreu, Héctor Centeno Martín, Sheila Guerrero Rojas


A relatively small but growing body of literature has examined incivility in online news comments and its consequences on democratic orientations, especially in the U.S. context. However, we still lack a detailed understanding of the processes and mechanisms that may be triggered by exposure to this particular type of online discourse. Using original survey data collected from a large, national sample of residents in Spain (N = 1,207), this study seeks to elucidate the direct and indirect relationships between exposure to uncivil news comments, intentional news avoidance, and political knowledge. Results indicate that exposure to uncivil comments online positively correlates with news avoidance and is indirectly associated with reduced political knowledge through news avoidance. We did not find evidence of an interaction between exposure to incivility and gender in predicting news avoidance. Results are discussed with a broader reflection on the role of social media use in political knowledge and democratic governance in general.


political knowledge, intentional news avoidance, uncivil news comments, social media, online news

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