The state of political discourse in the United States today has been a subject of concern for many Americans. Political incivility is not merely a problem for political elites; political conversations between American citizens have also become more difficult and tense. The 2016 presidential elections featured campaign rhetoric designed to inflame the general public. Yet the 2016 election was certainly not the only cause of incivility among citizens. There have been many instances in recent years where reasoned discourse in our universities and other public venues has been threatened.

This book was undertaken as a response to these problems. It presents and develops a more robust discussion of what civility is, why it matters, what factors might contribute to it, and what its consequences are for democratic life. The authors included here pursue three major questions: Is the state of American political discourse today really that bad, compared to prior eras; what lessons about civility can we draw from the 2016 election; and how have changes in technology such as the development of online news and other means of mediated communication changed the nature of our discourse?

This book seeks to develop a coherent, civil conversation between divergent contemporary perspectives in political science, communications, history, sociology, and philosophy. This multidisciplinary approach helps to reflect on challenges to civil discourse, define civility, and identify its consequences for democratic life in a digital age. In this accessible text, an all-star cast of contributors tills the earth in which future discussion on civility will be planted.

chapter |6 pages


A Crisis of Civility?
ByRobert G. Boatright

part I|74 pages

How Americans Think About Civility in Politics

chapter 1|22 pages

Two Concepts of Civility

ByAnthony Simon Laden

chapter 2|14 pages

How People Perceive Political Incivility

ByAshley Muddiman

chapter 3|16 pages

Perceptions of Incivility in Public Discourse

ByKate Kenski, Kevin Coe, Stephen A. Rains

chapter 4|20 pages

Signaling Incivility

The Role of Speaker, Substance, and Tone
ByEmily Sydnor

part II|77 pages

Instances of Civility and Incivility in Contemporary American Political Discourse

chapter 5|12 pages

“Showdowns,” “Duels,” and “Nail-Biters”

How Aggressive Strategic Game Frames in Campaign Coverage Fuel Public Perceptions of Incivility
ByDannagal Goldthwaite Young, Lindsay H. Hoffman, Danielle Roth

chapter 6|18 pages

Crises and Civility

Twitter Discourse After School Shootings
ByDeana A. Rohlinger, Cynthia Williams

chapter 7|29 pages

Can Civility and Deliberation Disrupt the Deep Roots of Polarization?

Attitudes Toward Muslim Americans as Evidence of Hyperpolarized Partisan Worldviews
ByJ. Cherie Strachan, Michael R. Wolf

chapter 8|16 pages

Disentangling Uncivil and Intolerant Discourse in Online Political Talk

ByPatrícia Rossini

part III|74 pages

Learning From the Past

chapter 9|15 pages

Seeking a Mutuality of Tolerance

A Practical Defense of Civility in a Time of Political Warfare
ByJohn Gastil

chapter 10|12 pages

The Patron Saint of Civility?

Benjamin Franklin and the Problems of Civil Discourse
BySteven C. Bullock

chapter 11|22 pages

Enabling Civil Discourse

Creating Civic Space and Resources for Democratic Discussion
ByTimothy J. Shaffer

chapter 12|23 pages


The Real Morality of Public Discourse: Civility as an Orienting Attitude 1
ByDeborah S. Mower