Americans Believe the U.S. Has a Civility Problem but Haven’t Given Up on the System
The Civility and Civic Engagement Survey shows strong evidence that although a wide majority of Americans believe the U.S. has a civility problem, we haven’t given up on our system.
“I think very few people will be surprised with survey results that indicate that most Americans perceive our politics to be uncivil and polarized and believe that this is a problem,” said Dr. Stephanie Slocum- Schaffer, Shepherd Political Science Professor and Senior Fellow at the Stubblefield Institute. “Perhaps what IS surprising is that so many of us are not expecting anything to change in the political arena, and, in fact, a good number think that political conversation in America will become even less civil over the next year.”
While many scholars view increasingly high levels of incivility and division in American politics as troubling, there are relatively few empirical tests that address the effects of incivility on the electorate. “This research begins to fill that gap,” added Slocum-Schaffer, who also directed the survey and analyzed its findings. “As my faculty colleague at the Stubblefield Institute — Dr. Matthew Kushin — put it, this study shows that while our politics devolve, the American spirit persists: large majorities of Americans are very interested in politics and elections, are actively engaged in the civic life of their communities, and are willing to talk politics with others.”
“The key follow-up is to consider how to address these pressing issues. I believe that we need to give Americans both the opportunity and the tools to turn their willingness to engage in political conversation into civil and fruitful discussions that produce real change in politics,” she concluded.
The Civility and Civic Engagement Survey is based on telephone interviews conducted by live interviewers March 2-10, 2021 with a random sample of 1,001 adults, ages 18+, in all 48 states of the continental US and the District of Columbia. For results based on this sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is +/- 3.1 percentage points with 95% confidence.
Interviews were conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular telephones, with a quota of 50% cell phone respondents and 50% landline respondents. Demographic targets for age, gender, and party identification were used to correct for non-response, and the sample was weighted for age by gender and for educational attainment in a multi-step process to further adjusts for non-response. Population estimates for age by gender came from the U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, June 2020. Population estimates for educational attainment were drawn from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 Current Population Survey. In addition to sampling error and non-response, challenges in conducting surveys, question wording, and question order can all introduce errors into the findings of public opinion polls.