Millennials are Most Hopeful When it Comes to Civility in America, Finds New Weber Shandwick/Powell Tate Research
NEW YORK, October 21, 2014 – The fifth installment of Civility in America from global public relations firm Weber Shandwick and public affairs firm Powell Tate with KRC Research looks at civility through a generational lens to better understand what the future holds for society. Although Americans are unanimous about the bleak state of civility, the Millennial generation seems less convinced of a more uncivil future. Nearly one in four Millennials (23 percent) – two to four times the percentage of other generations – believe civility will improve in the next few years. In their relatively short lifetimes, Millennials have experienced more uncivil behavior than any other generation, yet they are America’s most hopeful adults when it comes to tomorrow’s civility.
“The Millennial generation – 83 million people strong – is an economic and game-changing powerhouse that outnumbers the generations that came before it,” said Jack Leslie, chairman of Weber Shandwick. “The only adult generation to have grown up with cyber-bullying is also the only generation to have a native understanding of the power of a digitally connected world to change things for the better. Observing how Millennials overcome the challenges of eroding civility may suggest how our society can lay the groundwork for a more civil future.”
The Internet and Social Media: Leading Drivers of Incivility
There is a distinct divide between older and younger generations about what’s behind America’s civility problem. More than half of Millennials (56 percent) and Gen Xers (55 percent) say the Internet and social media are making civility worse, ranking them as the top sources of blame. Politicians, in contrast, top the list of incivility drivers for Boomers and the Silent Generation. Millennials and Gen Xers likely point fingers at the Internet because these are the cohorts that came of age during the formative years of the Internet and social media and by default, have been more exposed to both.
Seven in 10 Americans agree that the Internet encourages uncivil behavior. This view is held by all generations though Millennials are somewhat more likely to agree (74 percent). Millennials, the heaviest users of social media, are also significantly more likely than other generations to consider the medium uncivil. This is likely because they encounter more online incivility than others in an average week and are the biggest victims of cyberbullying.
The Internet encourages uncivil behavior (% completely/mostly agree)
Have personally experienced incivility online or cyberbullying
Average number of times online incivility is encountered in 7-day week
* = significantly higher than other generations
Standing Up to Incivility
By and large, Americans of all ages are more likely to do nothing in the face of incivility rather than confront it. Yet one-third of Millennials (33 percent) report taking a proactive measure the last time they experienced incivility, a rate significantly higher than those of Gen Xers (22 percent), Boomers (18 percent) and the Silent Generation (7 percent). Millennials were most likely to have defended the victim of incivility (16 percent), a possible trend that could grow in time.
Millennials also deal with incivility online. Approximately half have flagged or reported a comment or post as inappropriate (53 percent) and defriended, blocked or hidden someone because of uncivil behavior or comments (52 percent).
“The modest sign of ‘civility activism’ by Millennials is a refreshing finding from the Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate study,” said Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Executive Director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse. “If all Americans were to behave as proactively, we would be one step towards turning our nation back to a more civil environment.”
Millennials are Resigned to Incivility in Politics
Civility in America 2014 again finds agreement among Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike: the government behaves uncivilly and politicians are seen as the number one cause of civility erosion for the average American. One of the biggest generational differences when it comes to the civility of politics is that nearly half of Millennials (48 percent) – significantly more than any other generation – accept that incivility is just part of our political process.
“This study prompts several key questions,” said Pam Jenkins, president of Powell Tate. “Most importantly, can the tide be turned on political incivility, or is the damage to our political system irreparable? Millennials are the leaders of tomorrow, which means the power to shape the future of American civil discourse lies in their hands. Their optimism should give us hope, especially it if inspires them to overcome the acceptance of incivility in politics.”
Click here to view the Civility in America 2014 report and infographic.
About The Survey
The 2014 online survey was conducted in July among 1,000 American adults to assess attitudes towards civility in politics and in other aspects of American life. Among our sample, 295 are Millennials (18-33 year olds).
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About Weber Shandwick
Weber Shandwick is a leading global public relations firm with offices in 81 countries. The firm’s diverse team of thinkers, strategists, analysts, producers, designers, developers and campaign activators has won the most prestigious awards in the world for innovative, creative approaches and impactful work, including being honored as a 2014 Ad Age A-List Agency, The Holmes Report’s 2014 Global Agency of the Year, and winning 23 Cannes Lions together with its Prime unit since 2009. Weber Shandwick was also named PRWeek’s International Consultancy of the Year and The Holmes Report’s Best Healthcare Consultancy in the World in 2013, in addition to earning numerous best place to work accolades. The firm deploys deep expertise across sectors and specialty areas, including consumer marketing, corporate reputation, healthcare, technology, public affairs, financial services, corporate social responsibility, financial communications and crisis management, using proprietary social, digital and analytics methodologies. Weber Shandwick is part of the Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG). For more information, visit http://www.webershandwick.com.
About Powell Tate
Powell Tate is a leading strategic communications and bipartisan public affairs firm. Located in Washington, D.C., the firm specializes in public affairs; public education; reputation and crisis management; media relations; creative and interactive services; and research and advertising. The firm is a division of Weber Shandwick.
About KRC Research
KRC Research is a full-service market research firm that specializes in the kind of research needed for effective communications—communications that reach, engage and persuade. A unit of the Interpublic Group of Companies (NYSE: IPG), KRC Research offers the quality and custom service of a small firm along with the reach of a global organization. For over 30 years, KRC Research has worked on behalf of corporations, governments, not-for-profits and the communications firms that represent them. Staffed with market research professionals from the worlds of political campaigns, consumer marketing, journalism and academia, we are flexible, practical, creative, knowledgeable and fast, combining sophisticated research tools with real-world communications experience. For more information, visit www.krcresearch.com.