NARRATIVES IN AMERICA: THE CONNECTION BETWEEN AFFECTIVE POLARIZATION AND VICTIMHOOD IN THE 2020 US ELECTION
Keywords:affect, social media, discourse analysis, politics, transparency, race
AbstractThis study explores the emotions, beliefs, and deep stories about the self and other that are held by individuals on the political right and left in America in order to understand the manifestation of affective polarization during divisive historical moments. It also documents expressions of victimhood, villainhood, and privilege to determine how they intersect with narratives about the ingroup and outgroup. Horwitz (2018) argues that victimhood has become a desirable status in American politics and is thus a site of contestation. Therefore, we ask: what beliefs and emotions do individuals hold about the ingroup and outgroup and how do these contribute to exacerbating affective polarization? We conducted a four-month digital ethnography before, during and after the 2020 US election and developed an innovative approach to affective discourse analysis through an iterative, grounded study in order to analyse Facebook, Twitter, and Gab content. We coded 2500 cross-partisan posts/comments that focused on the January 6 Capitol events and election outcome/fraud and were underscored by themes of race and partisanship. Individuals on the political right and left expressed deep distrust towards the outgroup but thankfulness to those speaking their own narrative. Findings also indicate that affective polarization has deeper roots in feelings of bitterness and resentment of the other. These are linked to the ingroup’s narrative of victimhood/blame and serve to strengthen the boundaries of ingroup and outgroup identities as membership in the group becomes defined in part by the recognition (or lack thereof) of that group’s pain and oppression.
How to Cite
Gharib, H., & Boler, M. (2021). NARRATIVES IN AMERICA: THE CONNECTION BETWEEN AFFECTIVE POLARIZATION AND VICTIMHOOD IN THE 2020 US ELECTION. AoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research, 2021. https://doi.org/10.5210/spir.v2021i0.12169