Date of Thesis

Spring 2021


Political communication is an integral part of a democracy’s functionality, and communicating across party lines is essential to bridge divides and come up with solutions to the nation’s dilemmas. Yet, research demonstrates that civil discourse, particularly between those who hold opposing political viewpoints, is increasingly difficult in the United States. This thesis is exploratory in nature and seeks to investigate the relationship between civil discourse and the media’s impact on individuals' abilities to communicate with one another. In the thesis, I first review relevant previous literature. Next, I focus on research that I conducted via a nationally representative survey regarding perceptions of civil discourse. Following this, I will discuss empirical interview data, conducted with Bucknell students in the Spring of 20201, to supplement the data collected from the quantitative survey. The major themes and key takeaways from my research include that younger individuals in particular are struggling to engage in productive political communication. Moreover, there are large numbers of individuals who have ended, or considered ending, communication with others over political conflict. Further, individuals largely felt the current political climate for discussion in the United States is negative. A final theme that emerged is that both traditional and non-traditional forms of media seem to have generally negative impacts on civil discourse.

Access Type

Honors Thesis (Bucknell Access Only)


Political Science

Minor, Emphasis, or Concentration

Legal Studies

First Advisor

Chris Ellis

Second Advisor

Scott Meinke