Americans say U.S. political debate is increasingly uncivil


By Jennifer De Pinto, Fred Backus, Kabir Khanna and Anthony Salvanto

Members of Congress are getting positive ratings for the way they responded to the shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, last week. President Trump gets slightly lower — though still net positive — evaluations for his response to the attack, partly because Democrats are less likely to approve of his handling than of Congress’. Fifty-three percent of Americans approved of Congress’ response, and 29 percent disapproved, while 46 percent approved of President Trump’s response, and 36 percent disapproved.

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And while Congress and many observers called for a more civil tone to political debate in the wake of the events, Americans of all political leanings overwhelmingly say that the tone and level of civility in our political debates has been getting worse in recent years.

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These views are largely the same across ideologies, too, as about two-thirds of liberals, conservatives and even more moderates feel things have gotten worse.

Three-quarters of Americans feel the current tone of politics and debate is encouraging violence among some people; Democrats are especially likely to say so. About a third of Americans consider the recent shooting of a Congressman and others a terrorist attack.

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But importantly, Americans draw some distinctions between the political debate they decry, and the people themselves that hold opposing views. Most Republicans do not think of Democrats as threats to their way of life, but merely as people they disagree with on politics. Likewise, most Democrats feel the same about Republicans in this regard. There is a small core in each party, who do see other Americans across the political divide as threats to their way of life — but they are not the majority.

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Given this, optimism still prevails, though not by a landslide. More believe that people of different political views are capable of working together than are pessimistic about the prospects.

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This poll was conducted by telephone June 15-18, 2017 among a random sample of 1,117 adults nationwide.  Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News by SSRS of Media, PA.  Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones.

The poll employed a random digit dial methodology. For the landline sample, a respondent was randomly selected from all adults in the household. For the cell sample, interviews were conducted with the person who answered the phone.

Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish using live interviewers. The data have been weighted to reflect U.S. Census figures on demographic variables.

The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus four percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher and is available by request. The margin of error includes the effects of standard weighting procedures which enlarge sampling error slightly.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls

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© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.



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