State University of New York Institute of Technology
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“Very Large Majorities Believe Political Discourse is Angry, Bad Tempered and Worse Now Than in the Past” Ethics Blog #2

“Most people also believe that how politicians behave influences how citizens treat each other,” poll finds

From Harris:

“A new Harris Poll addresses the issue of incivility in politics and public life. It finds that an overwhelming 87% majority of the public believes that political discussions today are angry and bad tempered, and that a 67% majority believes that today’s political climate is more angry and bad tempered than it used to be….

“The issue of incivility in political discourse has been widely covered in the media. The political rhetoric used by some political leaders, union leaders and Tea Party supporters has been criticized. The shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the loss of six lives in Tucson was blamed by some, including the local police chief, on the inflammatory language used in recent political debate. This Harris Poll measured public attitudes on this issue and finds that:

  • “When given four possible responses, most people say that political discussion today is ‘much too angry and bad tempered’ (44%) or ’somewhat angry and bad tempered’ (43%). Democrats (48%) and Independents (50%) are more likely than Republicans (34%) to say ‘much too angry.’ Matures, people aged 65 and over (53%) and Baby Boomers (52%) are more likely than Gen Xers (44%) and Echo Boomers (33%) to think that political discourse is ‘much too angry and bad tempered’ today;
  • “Two thirds (67%) of adults believe that the political climate today is more bad tempered than in the past. Only 6% think it is less bad tempered….
  • “Most people (72%) believe that ‘how American politicians treat one another influences how American citizens treat one another,’ with 33% thinking this happens ‘very much’; and,
  • “Large majorities of all adults believe that in public discourse it is not appropriate for politicians, political commentators or others to use language relating to war or fighting (72%), ‘enemies’ (80%), or suggesting physical harm to opponents (86%).

“This Harris Poll leaves no doubt that the great majority of the American public dislikes the inflammatory rhetoric used by some politicians, commentators and others. They would like their leaders to be more civil to each other. They surely support the belief that ‘you should disagree without being disagreeable’. However that does not mean that heated attacks are ineffective. Indeed most people believe that ordinary citizens are influenced by how politicians treat one another. Surveys over the years have often shown that many people dislike political ‘attack ads,’ but that does not mean that they are not effective.”

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