Civility still matters to the American people, at least that is what the findings of the 6th Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate with KRC Research 2016 Civility Poll tells us. None of us needed a poll to tell us why civility is important, but it is comforting to be reminded that we, the people, really do place a high value on it and want our politicians to embrace civility.
The poll results show that 95 percent of Americans believe that civility is a problem, with 74 percent feeling that civility has declined in the past few years. And 70 percent of those polled said that incivility in America has risen to "crisis" levels. This is up 5 percent from the results of the 2014 poll. Not surprisingly the majority of poll respondents cited politicians, the Internet/social media and the news media as the top three causes of incivility today.
Maybe it is the seemingly never ending presidential race and the parade of candidates on every TV and talk radio program that makes us place the blame at the feet of these three groups, but the fact is the American public's response must be such that these groups feel encouraged to continue their behavior. We watch, we listen and most of us just shrug our shoulders at the latest atrocious comment a candidate makes about a person, a religion, a race or a gender. If we take any action at all, we are likely to retweet it or post it on social media. But the fact is that all three of these sources respond to what they think we want to hear - given that, we are equally responsible for the lack of civility because they get no pushback from us.
Civility is only going to improve in this country if we stand up collectively and make it clear that we won't accept incivility. Earlier this week we had a sign that things can change as the Boston Globe, in endorsing Governor John Kasich in the New Hampshire republican presidential primary, did so based in large part on his civility and his willingness to work across the aisle.
We have the power to change the tenor and tone of the political discussion in this country, and to do so we need to make it clear that we will not reward those who practice incivility, we won't watch the talking heads that encourage such behavior and we will stop following, visiting or retweeting incivility when it pops up on social media. We need to make a pact, as Americans, that we will no longer tolerate incivility. It has no place in our politics or our public discourse.