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Poll: Civility differs by faith and political party

January 17, 2011

Only One-in-Five Americans Believe Political Leaders Work Well Together to Overcome Differences to Get Things Done
– Americans Believe Nation is More Divided then in Past on Politics, Religion
By Public Religion Research Institute

New research released today confirms Americans are fed-up with the lack of civil discourse in this country and believe American political leaders are not working to overcome differences. The PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service, found that nearly six-in-ten Americans believe the country is more divided over politics than it was in the past and only one-in-five Americans believe American political leaders work well together to overcome differences to get things done.

The PRRI/RNS poll results also indicated that twice as many Americans believe the tone of the 2010 election compared to past elections was more negative (41%) than positive (22%). Democrats (51%), who lost a large number of congressional, gubernatorial and state legislative races across the country, are twice as likely as Republicans (26%) to believe the election’s tone was negative. Alternatively, one-third of white evangelicals report that the election was more positive than past elections, a number significantly higher than white mainline Protestants (17%), the unaffiliated (17%) or Catholics (23%).

“In the first major election since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling removed restrictions and reporting requirements on political contributions to influence elections, twice as many Americans say the tone of the elections were more negative than positive compared to past elections,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute.

The PRRI/RNS poll found that only one-in-five Americans believe national political leaders work well together to overcome differences to get things done. The poll found that this partisan divide does not trickle down to their local communities; two-thirds of Americans say people in their own local community indeed work well together. Further findings uncover that more than eight-in-ten Americans who attend religious services or belong to a congregation believe members in their own religious congregation work well to overcome differences, and nearly half of these respondents believe they work very well together.

“Eight-in-ten Americans say the lack of civil discourse in our political system is a serious problem, and few see evidence that America’s political leaders are working to overcome differences,” said Daniel Cox, Director of Research for Public Religion Research Institute. “However, in their communities and in their congregations, Americans say people are working through differences and getting things done.”

The PRRI/RNS poll also found that nearly six-in-ten (59%) Americans believe the country is more divided over politics today than it ever was in the past. Four-in-ten (41%) Americans think that the country is also more divided over religion than it was in the past. White evangelicals are more likely than other religious groups to believe that Americans are more divided over religion than in the past, with nearly half (48%) expressing this view. Among white mainline Protestants and Catholics less than four-in-ten (36% and 38% respectively) believe the country is more divided over religion than it was in the past. There are also significant generational differences. Young adults are less likely than seniors to say Americans are more divided over politics (50% to 61%) and are more likely to say Americans are divided over religion than older adults (42% to 33%).

The PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey is conducted monthly by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service. Results from the survey were based on telephone interviews conducted November 5-8 among a national probability sample of 1,022 adults.

Public Religion Research Institute is a non-profit, nonpartisan research and education organization specializing in work at the intersection of religion, values and public life.

  
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Discuss this article

Kevin January 19, 2011

This is all very well, but unless people are going to vote for politicians who are more civil, there is no incentive for them to behave that way.

Mark January 19, 2011

I’d rather have someone that shares my views as opposed to someone that is just civil. Civility went out the door long long before this shooting.

Jane January 20, 2011

Preferring to have someone who agrees with you rather than someone who practices basic human civility is exactly the problem. No one respects disagreement anymore. They want someone who will give them what they want. Compromise, discourse, and civil argument are what created this country. Sadly, it’s easier to call the person who disagrees with you a “communist” or a “bigot” than to understand and respect their views. As Kevin said, as long as people vote for the person who promises to give them what they want instead of promising to work toward realistic compromise, nothing will change.

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