Two-Thirds of Public Believe American Society is Uncivil; Even Larger Majority Think Behavioral Problem Worsening

Jun 22, 2010, 09:26 ET from Weber Shandwick

NEW YORK, June 22 /PRNewswire/ -- Two-out-of-three Americans consider a general lack of civility to be a major problem for the nation and 72 percent think that poor behavior has gotten worse in recent years, according to a new poll released today by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate in partnership with KRC Research. 


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While the American people believe their friends, family and places of worship are bucking the trend toward incivility, a majority of the public sees uncivil behavior throughout society – especially in politics and high schools; on talk radio and our nation's highways; in Hollywood and professional sports. 

Three-out-of-four Americans believe the financial crisis and recession have lessened the level of civility in American life.   

The online survey conducted by KRC Research in April asked more than 1,000 Americans how civility affects people's views of and participation in social media, politics, media and buying behaviors.  The executive summary is available here:

Seventy-two percent of Americans view the political world and government as uncivil – the highest percentage recorded in the poll – and the absence of civility appears to be having an impact on participation and interest in the political process among broad swaths of the public.

Nearly half the American people (49%) are tuning out government and politics, and almost two-thirds of those people (63%) cite the general tone and level of civility as a major factor in their decision. Forty-six percent of the people are tuning out opinion pieces and editorials in the media, and 45 percent cite incivility as a major factor. Thirty-eight percent are tuning out news coverage and reporting and half of them (50%) attribute their actions to the lack of civility.

Each major political party gives the other low marks on civility. Seventy-one percent of Democrats view Republicans as uncivil, and 74 percent of Republicans view Democrats as uncivil. Political independents regard Congressional Republicans more uncivil than Congressional Democrats, although they rate both parties more uncivil than civil (58 and 50 percent, respectively).

"Our research provides hard evidence that constituents and consumers alike are fed up with the polarization of our political system and the uncivil tone of our country as a whole," said Jack Leslie, Chairman of Weber Shandwick. "As a result, Americans are tuning out and turning away from news, information and informed opinions that make up the very foundation of American democracy."

With regard to social media, the survey found that blogs are considered more uncivil than social networking sites and Twitter. Pam Jenkins, President of Powell Tate, said: "This finding about the perception of prevalent blog incivility could be the result of the large number of political blogs that are often referenced by the mass media."

There is a high cost to rudeness and inconsiderate behavior. Three-quarters of Americans believe that companies that exhibit uncivil behavior should be boycotted.  Based on personal experiences of incivility, one half or more of Americans have refrained from buying a company's products (56%), reevaluated their opinions of a company (55%) or advised friends and family against purchasing their products (49%).

Although the American people pointed fingers at many segments of society for engaging in uncivil behavior, they strongly believe that everyone is responsible for improving such behavior. Asked who is responsible for improving civility, 87 percent answered "the American public"; 83 percent said political leaders; and 81, 79 and 76 percent cited the news media, businesses and places of worship, respectively.

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.

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.

About Weber Shandwick

Weber Shandwick is a leading global public relations agency with offices in 76 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, and Top Corporate Responsibility Advisory Firm by CR Magazine. The firm has also won numerous 'best place to work' awards around the world including "Best Multinational Firm to Work For in EMEA" by The Holmes Report and a "Top Place to Work in PR" by PR News. Weber Shandwick is part of the Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG). For more information, visit

Jennifer Norton                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      

Melissa Shuffield

Weber Shandwick

Powell Tate              



SOURCE Weber Shandwick