The findings of this study on the relationship between American identity and cyberhate suggest that understanding the nuances of “what it means to be American” is an important first step toward more understanding cyberhate.
The authors of this study explore the relationship between American identity and the production of hate in an online setting by drawing on data from a nationally representative survey to examine how various dimensions of American national identity relate to cyberhate. The findings suggest that understanding the nuances of “what it means to be American” is an important first step toward more fully grasping the phenomenon of cyberhate. While some research reports a relationship between the production of cyberhate and group identity, no empirical tests to date assess the strength of the identity related to the crime. The authors’ findings contribute to the growing body of empirical work on online extremism by demonstrating how identity affects behavior, particularly in this polarizing time when what it means to “be American” is frequently questioned. Framed in modern theories of identity, the authors use a five-item measurement of American identity—prominence, salience, private self-regard, public self-regard, and verification—to provide a detailed exploration of how a respondent’s self-views of their American identity and understanding of how others view that identity relate to their likelihood of producing hateful online material. Using descriptive statistics and regression analyses, the authors find higher levels of salience and public self-regard, as well as socio-demographics such as age, ethnicity, conservativism, and living in a large city, are associated with an increased odds of producing hate. Conversely, education and living in the South are inversely related to the production of hate. Identity-based crimes are understood as crimes rooted in the perceived identity of either the perpetrator or the victim. (Published Abstract Provided)