Posts Tagged ‘Civility in America’
We at Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate with KRC Research take the topic of civility seriously (see Civility in America, our third annual survey) because it impacts the reputation of the United States and affects public discourse. The new survey we just released is among 1,053 adults, 18+, and was conducted between September 14-16th. Data were weighted to align with the U.S. population distribution.
We found two-thirds (66 percent) of likely voters saying incivility was a major problem in society with 85 percent also saying political campaigns are uncivil. By a margin of almost 2 to1 (62 percent to 32 percent), likely voters said incivility has always been part of the political process but more than three-quarters (78 percent) said incivility in politics is worse now than it has ever been.
Since the debates are upon us (first one is tomorrow night), we decided to ask Americans about they perceived the civility of the candidates. Here is what we learned – there is a civility gap between the candidates:
- A majority of likely voters, 55 percent – 42 percent, considers President Obama’s campaign tone to be civil, while a plurality, 49 percent – 45 percent, perceives Governor Romney’s tone as uncivil. The civility gap is potentially significant because nearly half of likely voters polled, 48 percent, say the candidate’s civility will be a “very important” factor in how they vote.
- The gap was much less pronounced for the Vice Presidential candidates. Vice President Biden was seen as civil by a margin of 49 percent to 43 percent while likely voters were evenly split in their assessment of Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, with 46 percent saying he was civil and the same number saying he had been uncivil.
- Fifty-seven percent of likely voters say that any incivility demonstrated on the debate stage will affect their votes. The sentiment was shared equally by self-described Democrats (54 percent), Republicans (55 percent) and Independents (58 percent).
- If you saw today’s Wall Street Journal article on incivility online, we could have told them that 23 percent of likely voters said they defriended someone on Facebook or stopped following them on Twitter not because of their political views but because those views were expressed uncivilly.
- And when it comes to tuning OUT of political advertising, a sizeable 75 percent of likely voters are doing so and nearly as many – 72 percent — are tuning out when they receive emails asking for political campaign support. My in-box is full, how’s yours?
All of this comes down to the degradation of political reputations in the future. We learned that seventy-three percent of likely voters say that incivility in politics deters qualified people from going into public service. That’s a large number and if it is as true as it must be, we have a lot of work ahead of us.
I guess I knew it would happen quickly but I did not expect it to happen so soon and so disturbingly. Our survey on Civility in America was released just this week. Many Americans (55%) believe that incivility is only getting worse and 81% believe it is harming our future. No doubt about the fact that it is hurting our reputation. Although I was immersed in my work today, I just glimpsed at a Twitter mention of a reporter interrupting President Obama’s speech in the Rose Garden on a new policy on immigration. Apparently the reporter called out or tried to interrupt with questions which is unusual when the president is speaking. Where’s the decorum these days?
A reputation for uncivil discourse is not good for America’s reputation. We at Weber Shandwick just launched our third annual survey on Civility in America. We started investigating this fascinating topic about two years ago when I heard political consultant David Gergen mention at a conference that President Obama was seriously giving thought on how to make civility more interesting so that we could eradicate the rising tide of incivility in our nation. This idea just stayed with me for weeks and I thought that this had to be one of the more provocative subjects for further research and one that a leading public relations firm should investigate and begin making a difference in. After all, we are all about conversation, engagement and dialogue. Of course, little did I realize at the time, that the topic would turn explosive and that few Americans would be untouched by incivility a few years later. We started thinking about civility in America before the horrible events that occurred with the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona, Tyler Clementi’s suicide, cyber bullying and the debt ceiling debates — just to name a few instances of extreme incivility. The amazing part of learning about incivility for me was how it extends beyond what we first think about when we hear the word incivility. It extends beyond politics and the media to schools, shopping, roadways, and our neighborhoods.
Some of the findings are truly amazing….
- 55% of Americans expect civility in America to get worse
- 81% believe incivility in government is harming America’s future
- 72% believe incivility in politics deters qualified people from going into public service
- 67% expect the upcoming November election process to be uncivil
- 83% say a candidate’s civility will be an important factor in the 2012 presidential election
- 39% have defriended or blocked someone online because of uncivil behavior
- 18% have personally experienced cyberbullying or incivility online (double from last year)
- 66% say cyberbullying is getting worse
I will continue to post about this because America’s reputation deserves better. The heartening note was that people are starting to stand up against incivility. We found that nearly 4 in 10 Americans are defriending or blocking people online who are uncivil in their commentary and even more (44%) said they have ended a friendship over someone’s uncivil behavior. This is optimistic news.
I spent last Saturday afternoon reading the Harvard Business Review issue which has Reinventing America on the cover. The March 2012 issue. It holds alot of information about how to bring back America and make it a desirable location for businesses around the world. It is rich with information and insights. I highly recommend. In one article on what’s wrong with politics in the U.S., (definitely read), you start to realize that one big problem facing the reptuation of the USA is our intractable political warfare. It is hurting America’s reputation as a place to do business. The point is that there are many advantages to locating business in the U.S. but the political problems are creating barriers to consideration. One suggestion from the article is the following which falls in line with our work on Civility in America. We are hoping to conduct our third wave on Civility in America in May or June so we will be sure to look into the demand for getting civics classes back into the classroom. A call for action. America’s reputation has to turn around and Congress is not going to be the stimulus. Business will.
Stand up for civics. Business leaders should urge public officials—and the public at large—to restore civics to its rightful place in the classroom. Data show that many schools fail to effectively teach the workings of U.S. democracy or the responsibilities that go with citizenship. Just as America cannot be globally competitive without a well-educated workforce, it cannot retain its economic edge without a well-educated electorate that is ready to meet the relentless challenges of democratic governance.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, Congresswoman from Arizona. And let’s not forget the unnecessary killings of six people including a young 9 year old. Many were also hurt, including our nation’s reputation.
At Weber Shandwick, we started studying civility in June 2010 with a follow up in 2011. We realized that civil discourse was taking a turn for the worse in 2010 and we set out to better understand how the American public felt about this . We did not of course realize what was to come in the Arizona killing spree but we definitely knew that America’s reputation for civility was heading in the wrong direction.
Our research with Powell Tate and KRC Research on civility was breakthrough for a pr firm. The coverage has been consistently high. There are approximately 10 million mentions of civility when I last searched.
The idea came to me when I was at the Council of PR Firms’ annual event in October 2009. David Gergen, the political commentator and advisor to presidents, was a guest speaker and he was talking about how President Obama had mentioned how he had to figure out a way to get people interested in civility. The light bulb went on in my head and I could not let it go. Why not ask Americans what they thought of the tone of our national discourse in politics, schools, on television, online and in sports? How had the American public square become so unruly and what did Americans think they could do about it? And so we started the research. I am proud that Weber Shandwick added to the national conversation in a thoughtful and meaningful way. In my opinion, we should make it our business to teach people what is civil and uncivil behavior. There needs to be a national public education program to better inform people what the limits are.
In 2011 when we did the last survey, Americans expected civility to erode even further. Whereas more than one-third (39%) expected things to turn less civil when surveyed in 2010, more than one out of two Americans — 55% — expected a lack of civility to become the norm in 2011. And incivility did become the norm, not just in politics but in cyberbullying, school bullying and workplace bullying. I could not even guess what people think now as we enter the political cycle. We will be asking again as the incivility season (oops I meant silliness season) begins again.
At least tomorrow, on the one year anniversary of the Arizona tragedy, we can hold our tongues and keep our clicks at bay and be civil to our neighbors. The Arizona tragedy was not really due to incivility but due to the mental illness of a lone shooter. But it did touch the nation’s nerve and made us all think twice about the widening of our civility deficit.
Industry reputation is always changing. One of the major shifts in reputation today is the collateral damage that one company can inflict on its entire industry. Wish there was a more positive incline in how consumers see American business and government. Gallup’s recent analysis is now out and provides a look into who is up and who is down. It is no surprise that the real estate industry reputation has declined preciptiously from 2001. Even my own industry — PR — has witnessed a decline besides the fact that it is doing well. The computer and Internet industry look like they are surviving the best with positive lifts in reputation among US consumers.
The drop in perception of government, the deepest decline, seems to the theme of the day. To learn more about why that might be…take a look at our research on Civility in America. It says it all. [Have to add that the CEO of Yahoo, Carol Bartz, was fired via a telephone call. How civil is that? Regardless of what was happening at the company, what happened to the pink slip?]
|Overall View of Selected Business Sectors (% of U.S. Consumers)|
|Industry||% Positive||% Neutral||% Negative||Change in Positive Since 2001|
|Farming & Agriculture||57||22||19||-2|
|Television & Radio||39||21||40||-3|
|Electric & Gas utilities||38||20||40||7|
|Advertising & PR||32||29||37||-6|
|Oil & Gas||20||15||64||-4|
|Source: Gallup, August 2011|
Last night I could not help but wonder how the huge decline in the Dow of 500+ points was a reflection on the perceived reputation of the U.S. government as well as the country itself. I was not at all surprised to see a poll today that expressed basically the same thing. Here is what I knew to be true as I turned in last night: almost three-quarters of the American public believe that the congressional debate over the debt ceiling agreement has harmed the worldwide image of the United States . And a whopping 82% say that the debate was all about political advantage, not what is best for the country.
The reputation of the US has been severely bruised in the eyes of its own citizens and certainly around the world. We have plenty of reputation repair to do if distrust of government becomes the new normal. Whereas most companies and their leaders recognize that reputation is essential to their success today, our dueling political parties have yet to truly acknowledge how all the rancor and incivility is a vote from the daily majority about their behavior and decision-making. For more on civility in America, please click here for Weber Shandwick’s recent poll.
As I looked into people’s somber faces last night as I subwayed home, I could not stop thinking about how the American public had given the reputation of the US a solid “thumbs down” on confidence in this country’s future. You don’t even need a poll to tell you what we already learned from the Dow. Reputation rules whether it’s related to a company, a brand, an individual, an organization or a country. We cannot afford more reputation erosion on our country’s reputation. In addition to a bipartisan committee on how to reduce the debt, I think that we should be calling for a task force on restoring our reputation for the long-term. As more people tune out of government, as we learned in our survey, the harder it will be to build back America’s reputation for getting things done.
For the second year in a row, about two-thirds, or 65% of Americans say that civility is a major problem, according to our annual Civility in America poll by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate in partnership with KRC Research. The timing for this survey is pretty right on. I just read that presidential candidate Jon Huntsman pledges that there will be a climate of civility in the race to the top if it is up to him. You would think he spoke to us first! If you read the results regarding perceptions on civility when it comes to politics, you will quickly see that the presidential race could literally depend on the civility factor.
The perceived lack of civility in the United States has far-reaching implications for the reputation of the USA 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.
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.
Check out the executive summary. We have our work cut out for us.
The tragic story of a young student violinist who jumped off the George Washington bridge this week because of a posted video of his liasion with another man made my heart stop. The New York Times obviously thought it would stop and make others think because it was featured on their front page today. There must be a way to teach people about online privacy and how reputations can be harmed beyond repair if no one is thinking. This poor young man was convinced his reputation was irrecoverable once his roommate and friend crossed the boundary of common deceny. Ironically, Rutger’s University where the young man went to school, was embarking on a week devoted to Civility. I immediately thought about our timely recent research on Civility in America and I provide it to you at this link. On the radio this morning, I also heard President Obama mentioning political civility. What will it take to change our course of behavior?