On November 18, 2021, CFHU presented a roundtable webinar featuring the University of Toronto and Hebrew University of Jerusalem Research & Innovation Alliance, focusing on the topic of “Mainstreaming of Polarizing and Hate Narratives“. Speakers included Prof. Peter Loewen, Department of Political Science University of Toronto; Prof. Shaul Shenhav, Department of Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Prof. Tamir Sheafer, Faculty of Social Sciences, Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and Prof. Janice Stein; Department of Political Science, University of Toronto.

Click here to learn more about the U of T – HUJI Research Alliance. A summary of the research project is available below the video.


The Mainstreaming of Polarizing and Hate Narratives

Principal Researchers

  • Peter J. Loewen, Department of Political Science and Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy (U of T)
  • Ron Levi, Monk School of Public Policy and Department of Sociology (U of T)
  • Suzanne Stevenson, Department of Computer Science (U of T)
  • Christopher Cochrane, Department of Political Science (U of T)
  • Tamir Sheafer, Department of Political Science (HUJI)
  • Shaul Shenhav, Department of Political Science (HUJI)
  • Meital Balmas, Department of Communication and Journalism (HUJI)
  • Eran Amsalem, Department of Communication and Journalism (HUJI)

Political discourse containing hate, derogatory language, and incitement toward political and ethnic groups has always been a cause for concern among Western democracies due to the implications for fueling inter-group hostility, prejudice, and violence.

But the rise of new digital technologies has created an opportunity for extreme actors to increase their public visibility more than ever and has led to uncivil and polarized online political discourse. This has the potential for eroding public support for democracy and legal institutions. We ask in this project:

  • How such a discourse composed of hate and incitement has penetrated the mainstream political discourse and become more legitimate;
  • What are the social and political consequences of such mainstreaming.

We focus on polarizing and hate narratives: how people tell the story of their in-group versus the stories of other societal and political outgroups in a way that increases hostility, polarization, and hatred.

In a second phase, we will examine how citizens react to polarizing and hate narratives.

We will explore major actors in democracies (citizens, media, and politicians), across platforms (speeches, news coverage, Facebook and Twitter), in multiple languages (English, French, Hebrew), and in various political contexts: Canada, France, Israel, the US, and the UK.

Our collaboration is an opportunity to advance the scientific and public understanding of polarizing and hate narrative in multiple political contexts and platforms, while utilizing complementary research approaches that combine state-of-the-art computational algorithms together with large scale online experiments.