No Argument: Civility Continues to Erode

A recent poll has found that civility is worsening, promoting political gridlock, causing people to disengage from politics and leading to intolerance of free speech.

These were the findings of the 8th installment of Civility in America, an online poll conducted in January by KRC Research of Washington, DC, for two public relations firms,  Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate. The survey was based on a representative sample of 1,481 U.S. adults aged 18 years and older, drawn from a national consumer panel.

According to the poll:

  • 93% of the public agrees the nation has a civility problem, with 73% of Republicans and 69% of Democrats characterizing it as a “major” problem.
  • Nearly three-quarters of the public agree the problem has gotten worse compared to a few years ago.
  • Members of both parties generally agree that incivility is having or will have negative consequences for the U.S.
  • 83% of the public says incivility leads to intolerance of free speech.
  • 60% say incivility has led them to stop paying attention to political debates or conversations.
  • 59% say incivility is deterring people from entering public service.

One of the sharpest areas of disagreement concerned Republican President Donald Trump – 64% of Republicans and 14% of Democrats believe that President Trump is personally civil.  However, this finding echoes a similar finding in 2014 with respect to former Democratic President Barack Obama –  81 percent of Democrats said President Obama twas civil, compared to 14% of Republicans.

Last year, the poll found that politicians (64%) and the internet and social media (63%) share the blame for the rise of incivility. The news media (54%) was also blamed due instantaneous, nonstop media coverage that most (64%) believe makes incivility appear worse than it is.

* Note: The author, Patricia G. Barnes, J.D., offers civility and anti-harassment training to employers seeking to improve their workplace culture and boost their bottom line. Email barnespatg@gmail.com

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