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AARP Bulletin Survey on Civility

Given recent attention to the tenor of public discourse and suggestions that it has become less civil, the AARP Bulletin commissioned a nationwide survey to assess public opinion related to civility. In this survey, civility is defined as “showing respect for the people you deal with. For example, respecting other people’s opinions, being courteous, helping others, and showing good sportsmanship.”

The following are key findings from the survey:

  • Most adults (71%) think Americans are civil to each other.
  • Roughly half (53%) of adults think Americans are less civil when they debate issues facing the country today compared to 10 years ago.
  • Nearly seven in 10 Americans (69%) think politicians have a negative influence on how people get along. Roughly half of Americans think popular music (53%) and talk radio (50%) have a negative influence as well.
  • Americans are divided regarding the influence of cable television and social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, and other social media websites) on how people get along. Overall, 49% of adults think cable TV has a positive influence while 47% think it has a negative influence; 47% think social media has a negative influence while 42% think it has a positive influence.
  • Over seven in 10 Americans (73%) think schools have a positive influence on how people get along and over half (56%) think cellphones have a positive influence as well.
  • The vast majority of Americans (85%) think that parents or guardians should primarily be held accountable for teaching civility, as opposed to schools (7%), government (5%), or religious institutions (1%).
  • Adults report being most likely to lose their cool while driving (33%) or at home (32%).  


The survey was conducted Jan. 19-25 for AARP by Social Science Research Solutions among a nationally representative sample of 1,006 adults at least 18 years old. For more information, please contact Colette Thayer at

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