Poll Finds Politics Increasingly Uncivil
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 20, 2011– Most Americans believe that political discourse is becoming increasingly uncivil, and will consider the civility of presidential candidates an important factor in voting in the 2012 election, according to the second annual poll on Civility in America released today by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate in partnership with KRC Research.
While more than 70 percent say pop culture, media, government and the music industry are notable hubs of incivility, 80 percent of Americans – the largest majority found in the survey – consider political campaigns uncivil, and many think the problem will worsen.
The poll found that 85 percent of respondents said that politics is becoming increasingly uncivil; in particular, nearly three-quarters (74 percent) said they expected a decline in the general tone and civility of the upcoming presidential election. The survey found that 66 percent of Americans described the 2010 mid-term election as uncivil, and 59 percent rated the 2008 presidential election that way.
Jack Leslie, Chairman of Weber Shandwick, says: “While everyone has the right to engage in vigorous debate, this kind of rampant incivility undermines our political process. It turns people off, creating at best apathy and at worst antipathy toward elected leaders. Sooner or later, I hope we’ll reach a tipping point when people will demand more civil discourse.”
More than twice as many Americans find President Obama civil as they do uncivil (67 percent compared to 28 percent). But Congressional Democrats and Republicans and Tea Party supporters are all viewed as more uncivil than civil, the poll found.
The respondents said their perception of incivility will have an impact on how they cast their votes in next year’s election. The survey found that roughly 9 in 10 said “the way the candidate treats and deals with people he or she disagrees with” (90 percent) and “the candidate’s tone or level of civility” (88 percent) will play an important role in determining their vote for president in 2012. These figures reflect a sharp change in attitude. About two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) reported that in the past they had decided against voting for a certain candidate because he or she acted uncivilly.
The online survey conducted by KRC Research in late May asked more than 1,000 Americans how civility affects their views and participation in politics and media, including social media, as well as how incivility impacts their buying behaviors and outlook on the nation’s future. When asked to define “civility,” respondents gravitated to the word “respect,” and offered commentary such as: “treating others as you would want to be treated” and “interacting with others with politeness and patience even under difficult circumstances.” The survey’s executive summary is available at: http://bit.ly/Civility2011
Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate released a similar survey last year, which found that many Americans considered a general lack of civility to be a major problem. In this year’s poll, the biggest increases in uncivil behavior are: professional sports (+14 percentage points), Congressional Democrats (+12 percentage points), Tea Party supporters (+11 percentage points) and the American public (+9 percentage points).
The perceived lack of civility in the United States has far-reaching implications, the survey suggests, with 91 percent saying that incivility has negative consequences for the nation. Those polled said that incivility in government is harming America’s future; that incivility in American life is harming our standing in the world; and that incivility prevents the country from moving forward.
About half of the respondents (49 percent) said that the U.S. was among the most civil countries in the world.
“Our survey found that Americans believe that political campaigns are becoming more uncivil,” said Pam Jenkins, President of Powell Tate. “The media and political party leaders are seen as most to blame for fanning the flames of incivility. Americans clearly don’t want a reality show food fight when it comes to politics. They want civil discourse of the issues.”
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.