Pogledaj Full Version : Youth Attitudes toward Civility in Politics

Željko Zidarić
28th-May-2012, 02:57 AM
Links to report (http://www.civicyouth.org/featured-youth-attitudes-toward-civility-in-politics/)

CIRCLE Working Paper #71

Youth Attitudes toward Civility in Politics
Melissa S. Kovacs and Daniel M. Sheai
July 2010


Concerns about partisanship are as old as the American Republic, but many citizens and reporters detect rising levels of acrimony today. Political rhetoric on television and radio programs seems especially shrill. In the wake of the summer town hall meetings of 2009, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman pondered “whether we can seriously discuss serious issues any longer and make decisions on the basis of the national interest.” A few months later, a Republican congressman shouted, “You lie!” during a presidential address, and a Democratic congressman warned sick people that Republicans “want you to die quickly.”

Brookings Institution scholar Darrell West has suggested we have entered an “arms race of incendiary rhetoric, and it’s quickly reaching the point of mutually assured destruction.”

In a recent report entitled, Nastiness, Name-calling & Negativity: The Allegheny College Survey of Civility and Compromise in American Politics, the authors found that average citizens are upset about incivility, although they differ by ideology, gender, and media use. (For example, those who listen to talk or news radio are much more likely to perceive incivility than those who read a newspaper.) This report focuses on the newest generation of voters. We find that they differ from their older counterparts, being less likely to believe that civility is possible, less ashamed about recent incivility, but more supportive of compromise and more optimistic about higher education’s role in promoting civility.

The full original report can be found at http://sites.allegheny.edu/civility/. The Survey was conducted in April 2010, of 1,000 nationally-representative, randomly-selected Americans to gauge attitudes and perceptions of civility in politics, with a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points.ii

This study, one of the first of its kind, was intended to move beyond anecdotal evidence and punditry to get at the heart of public perceptions regarding the tone of contemporary politics. Our findings suggest nearly universal recognition of the problem and a growing concern about the implications of an uncivil body politic. Further, the findings cast blame at a number of institutions, but also give reasons for optimism. Generational differences exist in the attitudes and feelings we measured. A profile of respondents follows in Appendix A.

Measures and Attitudes of Civility

The Survey measured the extent to which the American public is paying attention to politics. Figure 1 reports the findings of this question. Overall, 58 percent of Americans suggest they follow politics “most of the time,” with another 28 percent saying they pay attention “some of the time.” Generational differences exist. Older Americans are clearly more tuned in than are those under 30. Even so, the strong figures for the younger generation buttress the notion that politics is important for all Americans.

We also asked about the possibility of civil politics, given the nature of issues and partisanship in America. Specifically, we asked, “Many people in this country—politicians included—hold strong views on certain issues. Given the difficulty and often personal nature of these issues, do you believe it is possible for people to disagree respectfully, or are nasty exchanges unavoidable?” We found some variance when the respondent’s age was introduced, as noted in Figure 2. The age group least likely to see respectful politics possible in today’s climate was young citizens. Conversely, respondents over the age of 30 were more likely to view polite politics as possible.

The survey does not allow us to tell why young citizens are less likely to see respectful politics as possible, compared to older Americans More research is needed to understand a generation that sees such conduct as inevitable. We also asked respondents about the recent health reform debate. Respondents in the older generations were much more likely to feel that Americans should be ashamed of the recent health reform process, as Figure 3 shows.