Uncivil Nation

June 17, 2017

Uncivil Nation

The reputation of the United States is going south. In the recent Civility in America survey, our seventh wave since 2010, Weber Shandwick with Powell Tate and KRC Research found that American voters agreed that political incivility affects the reputation of the U.S. (86%); that uncivil comments by political leaders encourages greater incivility in society (79%); that incivility leads to less political engagement on the part of the American people (75%); that the U.S. is losing stature as a civil nation (73%) and that incivility deters people from entering public service (59%). Those are a lot of consequences resulting from uncivil discourse and behavior!

Nearly everyone (97%) believes that it is important for the U.S. president to be civil. This sentiment crosses party lines, although Democrats are more likely than Republicans and Independents to say it is very important (92% vs. 70% and 77%, respectively).

Why does a president need to be civil? There are national reputation repercussions. Nearly nine in 10 Americans (86%) believe that a president’s tone and level of civility impacts the reputation of the U.S. around the world.

Although we do not rank countries in terms of civility or reputation, another well-respected ranking appeared in March 2017 conducted by University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and global brand consultants BAV Consulting that found that the U.S. has lost its top tier position as a best country in the world by falling to seventh place. This is not good. We should be alarmed that our national reputation is falling worldwide. A good reputation drives talent to work here, young people to get educated here, business to grow here and people to travel here. The economic reasons alone for fostering a good reputation are crystal clear.

As a New Yorker, I was alarmed to learn that tourism in our fair city is down considerably compared to years past due to our faltering reputation and high levels of uncivil national rhetoric. In light of that perception challenge, NYC has started a new campaign welcoming people of the world. Let’s hope it helps to counter some of these negative perceptions facing us which unfortunately do not seem to be going away. We can always hope.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

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 corporate and CEO reputations.

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