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Roger Simon
Roger Simon
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Impolite Pols May Face Doom

Comment

Listen up, you morons: The United States has gotten less civil.

"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 study by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate in partnership with KRC Research. (How did all of them get along? I wonder.)

And while incivility is a problem in virtually all walks of life, politicians may be particularly vulnerable: Some 83 percent of those polled said, "People should not vote for candidates and politicians who are uncivil."

So nobody is going to win come November, I guess.

I was given an advance look at the study, which polled 1,003 U.S. adults between April 20-23. When asked how they would describe the "general tone and level of civility" in the areas below, the results were:

Government/Politics ... 72 percent uncivil

Traffic on roads/highways ... 69 percent

American public ... 61 percent

Talk radio ... 59 percent

High schools ... 59 percent

Hollywood celebrities ... 56 percent

Professional sports ... 54 percent

Television ... 52 percent

Blogs ... 51 percent

CEOs ... 49 percent

News reporters/commentators ... 48 percent

Social networking sites ... 43 percent

Companies/places of employment ... 40 percent

College/university campuses ... 40 percent

Advertising ... 39 percent

Twitter ... 35 percent

Friends/relatives ... 17 percent

Places of worship ... 14 percent

We, as a people, pay a price for the jerks among us: Nearly half of all Americans say they are "tuning out" of government and politics, 46 percent are tuning out of opinion pieces and editorials in the media, and 38 percent are tuning out of news coverage and reporting.

Some 75 percent of Americans believe uncivil companies should be boycotted, and more than 56 percent have already done so based on their own personal experiences.

And hold onto your hats: "Seventy-one percent of Democrats view Republicans as uncivil, and 74 percent of Republicans view Democrats as uncivil." Some 58 percent of independents rate Republicans as uncivil, and 50 percent rate Democrats as uncivil.

Pam Jenkins, the president of Powell Tate/Weber Shandwick, sounded very civil on the phone (also, she said she would call me at 9 a.m., and she actually called me at 9 a.m.!)

I asked her to define incivility, and she said, "Rudeness and a lack of respect for those who have different points of view and who don't share the same view of the world."

Jenkins said it was interesting to her "that CEOs are seen as more uncivil than the companies themselves."

As to the relatively high incivility rating of blogs (51 percent of those polled considered blogs uncivil, and only 20 percent considered them civil), she said, "Discontented people can express their vitriol and can get attention from the media."

She said Washington discourse has gotten worse. "I have three kids," she said, "and when I was a kid it was unimaginable that a member of Congress would call the president a liar."

Some other findings of the survey:

— Baby boomers are the most likely to think civility is a problem.

— Three in four people say the financial crisis and recession have made the level of civility worse in this country.

— Incivility is tolerated in newspapers and magazines, but much less on television and radio. "Few say they have cancelled a subscription to a newspaper or magazine if their content was uncivil. In contrast, many say they have not watched or listened to a program because they were uncomfortable with its lack of civility," the study found.

— Majorities believe "there is a role for all parties in improving civility, but primary responsibility rests with the general public and political leaders."

And you knew this was coming: "Looking forward, Americans expect civility to get worse rather than better."

One more finding: 98.6 percent of all human beings find me extremely civil.

Don't believe that? Up yours.

To find out more about Roger Simon, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2010 CREATORS.COM



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