Standing Up Against Incivility

June 13, 2012

Standing Up Against Incivility

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.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross
lesliegainesross@gmail.com

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of reputations.

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