Study: Most Americans believe social media is causing incivility

The vast majority of people in the U.S. identify civility as a problem in the states, the research states.

More than nine out 10 (93 percent) of Americans believe there’s a civility problem in the country, with 63 percent saying social media is a contributing factor to the negativity, according to a new study.

The "Civility in America 2019: Solutions for Tomorrow" report, which was conducted by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate with KRC Research, also reveals that only nine percent of people in the U.S. say social media does more good than bad. The online survey was conducted in February among 1,230 U.S. adults 18 years and older and 100 teens between 16 and 17 years old.

Interestingly, the belief that social media has more negative impact on civility than positive was a shared believe among multiple demographics in the study, including the digital natives of Generation Z. Hispanic respondents expressed the most positive reactions to social, with 27 percent saying it does more good than harm.

"Since the inception of this study nearly a decade ago, the eroding state of public discourse in America has been of great concern to Americans," said Andy Polansky, CEO of Weber Shandwick, in a statement.

He added: "Although social media has risen over the years as a source of incivility in this nation, other factors such as politicians, the news media and America’s youth are also consistently blamed. We remain optimistic that Americans can rise above the incivility they encounter on social media and engage in less divisive discourse in every aspect of their lives."

Some additional findings from the study include:

  • The increase in blaming the Internet and social media for civility’s demise has more than doubled since Weber began investigating its role (from 24 percent in 2012 to 57 percent in 2019).
  • Among Gen Z (16- to 21-year-olds), there is a 4:1 gap between those who say social media’s effect has been more negative than positive, versus more positive than negative.
  • Over the years, the number of uncivil online interactions that Americans have experienced has grown (from 4.4 uncivil interactions online per week in 2013 to 5.5 in 2019).
  • On a positive note, 9 in 10 American employees (89 percent) describe their place of employment as very or somewhat civil. This has been a consistent finding since we began asking about civility in the workplace in 2017.
  • Despite 93% of Americans identifying a civility problem in the U.S., most employees view their workplace as civil.

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