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Who Views Online Extremism? Individual Attributes Leading to Exposure

NCJ Number
Computers in Human Behavior Volume: 63 Dated: October 2016 Pages: 311-320
Date Published
October 2016
10 pages

This study identified the characteristics of persons most likely to view materials online that malign groups based on race, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, political views, immigration status, or religion.


The study used an online survey (N = 1,034) of youth and young adults recruited from a demographically balanced sample of Americans to address the issue. By studying demographic characteristics and online habits of individuals who are exposed to online extremist groups and their messaging, this study serves as a precursor to a larger research endeavor that will examine the online contexts of extremism. Descriptive results indicate that a sizable majority of respondents were exposed to negative materials online. The materials were most commonly used to stereotype groups. Nearly half of negative material centered on race or ethnicity, and respondents were likely to encounter such material on social media sites. Regression results demonstrate that African-Americans and foreign-born respondents were significantly less likely to be exposed to negative material online, as were younger respondents. Additionally, individuals expressing greater levels of trust in the federal government reported significantly less exposure to such materials. Higher levels of education resulted in increased exposure to negative materials, as did a proclivity towards risk-taking. (Publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: October 1, 2016