Poll shows Americans frustrated with harsh tone in political campaigns

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Nearly eight in 10 Americans say they are "frustrated with the tone in politics today," and nearly three-quarters of Americans say that campaigns have become more negative over the years.

Those attitudes were among the responses in a new Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll conducted July 9-July 11. The Knights released the results July 26 from the international fraternal organization's headquarters in New Haven.

In response, the Knights of Columbus has launched a national, nonpartisan initiative "to give voice to Americans' desire for civility in public discourse."

"The American people want and deserve civility and a conversation on the issues rather than personal attacks," Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in a statement.

The initiative includes a series of full-page national newspaper ads - with the first one appearing in the July 26 issue of USA Today - to encourage readers to sign an online petition at CivilityinAmerica.org.

Facebook users can show support for the effort by "liking" the petition at Facebook.com/CivilityinAmerica.

The petition reads: "We, the undersigned citizens of the United States of America, respectfully request that candidates, the media and other advocates and commentators involved in the public policy arena employ a more civil tone in public discourse on political and social issues, focusing on policies rather than on individual personalities. For our part, we pledge to make these principles our own."

In announcing the initiative, Anderson said: "Since our elected officials work for and represent the American people, this petition is a step forward in making our voice heard and in making clear to our public servants how we would like them to conduct themselves."

He noted that "all of us have friends with whom we disagree, and we long ago learned how to have civil relationships despite our differences."

Other poll results showed:

- Two-thirds of Americans (66 percent) believe that candidates spend more time attacking their opponents than talking about the issues.

- By a nearly 20 point margin, Americans believe that campaigns are mostly uncivil and disrespectful (56 to 37 percent).

- Nearly two-thirds of Americans say that negative campaigning harms our political process a great deal or a significant amount (64 percent).

The survey of 1,010 adults was conducted by telephone. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The Marist Institute for Public Opinion, a survey research center, is home to the Marist Poll.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970