Civility has worsened in the United States and most people blame social media and the media generally. That’s the consensus in the new 2023 ABA Survey of Civic Literacy, released April 27. The survey asked 1,000 U.S. residents their views on civility, what issues they’d be willing to compromise on and how much they know about the workings of U.S. government.
The results: A large majority agreed that civility is worse and that political compromise is good, but many are not willing to compromise on specific issues. Also, most believe Americans don’t know much about their government.
The survey is released each year to mark Law Day, observed annually on May 1. The results are from a nationally representative phone survey conducted March 17-22 by DAPA Research on behalf of the ABA. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Here are the results of some individual questions:
- 85% said civility in today’s society is worse than it was 10 years ago.
- 29% said social media is primarily responsible for eroding civility. Another 24% blamed the media generally and 19% blamed public officials.
- 34% said family and friends are primarily responsible for improving civility in our society. Another 27% said it’s primarily the responsibility of public officials and 11% said community leaders. Only 7% said it’s primarily the responsibility of teachers.
- An overwhelming majority (90%) said parents and family are most responsible for instilling civility in children.
- Almost everyone said they want government leaders to work toward compromise and not hold their ground until they win. Nearly 4 out of 5 (79%) said they support compromise. Only 13% supported government leaders holding their ground.
- But on specific issues, many people opposed elected officials compromising:
- 57% opposed compromise on voting rights.
- 45% opposed compromise on reproductive rights. The same number (45%) supported compromise.
- A majority supported compromise on gun rights (53%), Social Security (53%), immigration reform (70%) and infrastructure (75%). But 41% opposed compromise on gun rights and 40% opposed compromise on Social Security.
- Younger people are more willing to compromise on Social Security than older people approaching retirement.
- More women than men supported compromise on gun rights.
- Most people thought the general public is not very informed about how government works (53%) or not informed at all (17%).
- Most people (59%) knew that John Roberts is chief justice of the United States, but 19% thought it was Clarence Thomas.
- 21% incorrectly thought only U.S. citizens must pay federal income tax, and 18% incorrectly thought only citizens must obey the law. Also,19% incorrectly thought freedom of speech is only for U.S. citizens.
- A large majority (87%) knew that the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution are called the Bill of Rights. But 44% incorrectly thought “We the people” are the first words of the Declaration of Independence.
To see the complete 2023 ABA Survey of Civic Literacy, click here.
- Video of the April 27 rollout event moderated by ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross
- ABA Cornerstones of Democracy
- ABA Law Day 2023
- ABA Journal