“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. 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.” –Jack Leslie, chairman of Weber Shandwick
Anyone that’s been driving on the highways and byways of late (including this reporter) isn’t surprised one iota by the statement above – nor by the finding in a recent poll conducted by public relations firms Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate, in partnership with KRC Research, that two out of three Americans consider a general lack of civility to be a major problem for the nation, with some 72% believing poor behavior has gotten worse in recent years.
While poll also found that Americans 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; our nation's highways; in Hollywood and professional sports.
[Here’s a clip from the Associated Press about how New York City got pegged as the “Road Rage” capital of the U.S. last year – and why many NYC residents actually agreed with that determination!]
The online survey conducted by KRC 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
Extrapolating from the data gleaned in that research, three out of four Americans believe the financial crisis and recession have lessened the level of civility in American life, with 72% of Americans viewing the political world and government as uncivil – the highest percentage recorded in the poll.
Nearly half of Americans (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. Another 46% are tuning out opinion pieces and editorials in the media, and 45% cite incivility as a major factor, while 38% tune out news coverage and reporting – with half of them (50%) attributing their actions to the lack of civility.
With regard to social media, the survey found that blogs are considered more uncivil than social networking sites and Twitter (Oh no! So much for blogging!)
The poll also found that 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 Americans 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%answered "the American public"; 83% said political leaders; and 81%, 79% and 76% percent cited the news media, businesses and places of worship, respectively.
What does all of this prove? That civility – basic good manners – still matters not only in everyday life but in the business world, too. I’ve talked to plenty of truck drivers and trucking executives in my relatively short career and I can attest that the ones that survive the ups and downs this business dishes out are inevitably ones with high standards of personal and professional civility. Let’s hope more of that is encourages as the industry continues to travel on the long road back to fiscal health.