Religious Tolerance and Political Polarization Within the Context of Social Media



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Religion and politics are two controversial topics that are deeply rooted in the identity of an individual, and have caused a number of online arguments across different social networking sites (SNS). Research has been conducted looking at how these variables are related, but no such studies have looked at potential impact on religious intolerance and political polarization. Therefore, the current study aims to examine how religious factors, moral foundations, and SNS related factors affect religious intolerance and political polarization. This was done by having participants complete a series of scales before being exposed to one of three mock Facebook posts containing either political content or neutral content, as well as either a civil or an uncivil discourse. The independent variables measured using surveys were religious commitment (RCI-10), religious fundamental belief (RF Scale), and moral foundations (MFQ). The remaining two independent variables were the post content variable and the civility of the comment section variable. The Interfaith Intolerance Scale (II) was used to measure religious intolerance while a political thermometer was used to measure political polarization. Two multiple linear regressions were conducted for the dependent variables to determine if the independent variables predicted intolerance and polarization scores. Results for intolerance found that religious commitment, religious fundamental beliefs and the purity/sanctity subscale of the MFQ each positively predicted intolerance while the harm/care subscale negatively predicted intolerance. The multiple regression for political polarization was not found to be significant. The current study found similar results to v past research that indicates religious factors such as commitment and fundamentalism are predictive of intolerance, and found that two of the moral foundations differed in their impact on intolerance. Implications of this study highlight different factors that contribute to the level of intolerance that is observed in our world. Both religious factors and moral foundations affect the way that we view others. These findings should lead to more research related to these variables as to illuminate the relationship between them. In addition, this research should lead to a degree of self-awareness when it comes to how religion and moral foundations are viewed to affect intolerance.



Religion, Politics, Social media, Intolerance, Polarization, Social networking site, Moral foundations, Religious commitment, Religious fundamentalism