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

- Survey Also Finds Increased Incivility in the Workplace, Classroom and Online -

Jun 21, 2011, 09:30 ET from Weber Shandwick

NEW YORK, June 21, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- 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."

Behaviors Resulting from Incivility Experiences

Have you ever … because of incivility



Decided not to buy from a company again because someone
from that company was uncivil in the way they treated you?



Reevaluated your opinion of a company because its tone or
conduct was uncivil?



Decided not to vote for a political candidate because you felt
he or she acted or spoke uncivilly?

not asked


Advised friends, family or co-workers not to buy certain
products or services because you felt a company or its
representative was rude or uncivil?



"Defriended" or blocked someone online because you
thought their comments or behaviors were uncivil?



Stopped going to an online site because you were
uncomfortable with its lack of civility or the tone of conversation?



Dropped out of an online community or forum because
it had become uncivil?



Quit a job because it was an uncivil workplace?

not asked


Transferred your child to a different school because he or she
was treated uncivilly? (among parents)

not asked


(These are statistically higher since 2010 with 90% confidence)

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.

  • 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."

For more information on Civility in America -- 2011, please visit Weber Shandwick at www.webershandwick.com or download the executive summary here: http://bit.ly/Civility2011

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.

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 Weber Shandwick

Weber Shandwick is a leading global public relations agency with offices in 74 countries around the world. The firm's success is built on its deep commitment to client service, our people, creativity, collaboration and harnessing the power of Advocates - engaging stakeholders in new and creative ways to build brands and reputation. Weber Shandwick provides strategy and execution across practices such as consumer marketing, healthcare, technology, public affairs, financial services, corporate and crisis management. Its specialized services include digital/social media, advocacy advertising, market research, and corporate responsibility. In 2010, Weber Shandwick was named Global Agency of the Year by The Holmes Report for the second year in a row; an 'Agency of the Decade' by Advertising Age, Large PR Agency of the Year by Bulldog Reporter, a Digital Firm of the Year by PR News, and Top Corporate Responsibility Advisory Firm by CR Magazine. The firm has also won numerous 'best place to work' awards around the world. Weber Shandwick is part of the Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG). For more information, visit http://www.webershandwick.com.

About KRC Research

KRC Research is a full-service market and opinion research firm that specializes in research to support public relations and marketing communications.  We conduct surveys, focus groups, and interviews around the globe to generate insights, test ideas, develop messages, track awareness, and measure success.  We also conduct research to attract attention—generating headlines and establishing our clients as thought leaders.  Fully integrated with Weber Shandwick, KRC Research offers the quality and custom service of a small firm along with the reach of a global organization. For over 30 years, we have worked on behalf of corporations, governments, not-for-profits and the communications firms that represent them.


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