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69 Percent of Americans Shut Their Wallets Due to Incivility, According to New Weber Shandwick Survey

NEW YORK, June 21, 2011 – For the second year in a row, about two-thirds, or 65% of Americans say that civility is a major problem, according to the annual Civility in America poll released today by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate in partnership with KRC Research.  Among the many aspects of American life impacted by incivility – such as politics, sports, schools, workplaces, among others – is American business, considered by 48% of respondents to be uncivil. At a dramatically increased pace from 2010, Americans are voting out incivility with their wallets by severing their patronage to companies (69%), redefining their perceptions of brands (69%), and spreading negative word-of-mouth about companies (58%).

The 2011 online survey was conducted in May among 1,000 American adults to assess attitudes towards civility online, in the workforce, in the classroom and in politics. An earlier release covered civility and politics (http://bit.ly/l9MzoY).

Micho Spring, chair of Weber Shandwick’s Global Corporate Practice, states: “Our second annual Civility in America poll confirms that the decline in civility is seeping into all facets of American life, including our workplace, our schools, our online lives and consumer sentiment.  The risk of companies losing business because of incivility is startling and growing. The topic of civility deserves to be part of the growing national debate on how we communicate responsibly in our daily lives.”

 

Further underscoring incivility’s power on the wallet, a recent survey by Consumer Reports found that 64% have left a store due to poor service. This data coincides with our finding that 65% of Americans have experienced incivility during a shopping trip.

In a related finding important for the marketplace, nearly six in 10 Americans (58%) report “tuning out” advertising because of perceived incivility.  Companies whose businesses depend upon consumer perception should heed these findings as they try to emerge from the recession.

Incivility on the Rise in Other Aspects of American Life

Over one-half of Americans (55%) believe that civility in America will get worse in the next few years. This is significantly higher than Americans’ perceptions on incivility measured last year (39%). Civility in the workplace, schools and the Internet were explored in our second annual survey:

  • Incivility at Work

    Over four in 10 Americans — 43% — have experienced incivility at work. A nearly equal number (38%) believe that the workplace is becoming increasingly uncivil and disrespectful.

    Workplace leadership is blamed for this decline by approximately two-thirds (65%) of those who perceive greater incivility in the workplace. This perception could possibly be fueled by the cynicism towards CEOs brought on by the recent recession or the belief that bosses are responsible for setting the tone at the top for acceptable behavior.

    After workplace leadership, Americans who perceive greater incivility in the workplace cite employees themselves (59%) for workplace incivility. Other reasons include the economy (46%) and competitiveness in the workforce (44%).

    As a consequence of this growing trend on the job, the majority of Americans (67%) agree that there is a critical need for civility training in the workplace.

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  • Incivility Online

    Asked about the civility of social networks, nearly one in two (49%) say that they are uncivil, an increase from 2010 (43%). However, Americans are much more inclined to name other sources besides social media and the Internet as uncivil – political campaigns, pop culture, media, government, the music industry and the American public.

    Incivility causes Americans to change their online behavior – 49% report that they have defriended or blocked someone online, 38% stopped visiting an online site because they were uncomfortable and 27% dropped out of a fan club or online community or forum.

    Chris Perry, President of Weber Shandwick Digital Communications, says, “Digital conversations are meant to engage and foster multi-dimensional dialogue. They are not meant to demean others or be hurtful. Although this research shows online incivility slightly on the rise, the connectivity and opportunity for dialogue ultimately outweighs the risk.”

    Cyber bullying or online harassment of children or teens is of great concern to Americans today.  Nearly 7 in 10 Americans — 69% — report that cyber bullying is getting worse. An equally large number — 72% — worry about children being cyber bullied.  These high figures underscore parental concern about online incivility and youth. The majority of Americans — 78% — believe that civility training should be offered in our nation’s schools.

    Leslie Gaines-Ross, Weber Shandwick’s chief reputation strategist and online reputation expert, remarked: “Incivility at school and cyber bullying is fast becoming commonplace and we do not want to become immune to it.  The research underscores the need for a more positive and responsible climate for our nation’s youth.”

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For more information on Civility in America – 2011, please visit Weber Shandwick at www.webershandwick.com or download the executive summary here.

About The Survey The 2011 online survey was conducted in May among 1,000 American adults to assess attitudes towards civility online, in the workforce, in the classroom and in politics. The margin of error is ±2.6 percentage points.

Jennifer Norton

Jennifer Norton

SVP, Global Marketing & Corporate Affairs

jnorton@webershandwick.com
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