by Karl Kurtz
Young people today, compared to their older counterparts, are "less likely to believe that civility is possible, less ashamed about recent incivility, but more supportive of compromise and more optimistic about higher education’s role in promoting civility."
That's the conclusion of an interesting new report by Melissa S. Kovacs and Daniel M. Shea published by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). The report begins:
Concerns about partisanship are as old as the American Republic, but many citizens and reporters detect rising levels of acrimony today. Political rhetoric on television and radio programs seems especially shrill. In the wake of the summer town hall meetings of 2009, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman pondered “whether we can seriously discuss serious issues any longer and make decisions on the basis of the national interest.” A few months later, a Republican congressman shouted, “You lie!” during a presidential address, and a Democratic congressman warned sick people that Republicans “want you to die quickly.”
Brookings Institution scholar Darrell West has suggested we have entered an “arms race of incendiary rhetoric, and it’s quickly reaching the point of mutually assured destruction.”
In a recent report entitled, Nastiness, Name-calling & Negativity: The Allegheny College Survey of Civility and Compromise in American Politics, the authors found that average citizens are upset about incivility, although they differ by ideology, gender, and media use. (For example, those who listen to talk or news radio are much more likely to perceive incivility than those who read a newspaper.) This report focuses on the newest generation of voters. We find that they differ from their older counterparts, being less likely to believe that civility is possible, less ashamed about recent incivility, but more supportive of compromise and more optimistic about higher education’s role in promoting civility.
Here's one of many interesting charts from the report about age differences in attitudes toward incivility showing that young people believe that higher education should play a key role in promoting civility:
Who Should Take a Lead Role in Making Politics More Civil?