Civility, Incivility, and Public Opinion in the 2012 Elections Andrew J. Perrin, Ph.D. Department of Sociology University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Program in Humanities and Human Values June 27, 2012 Citizenship has taken a violent turn Poisoning the Discourse

President Obama ...will find a gay, handicapped, black woman, who's an immigrant.... she could be the devil, she can say I hate America, I want to destroy America. Glenn Beck

False beliefs make for bad citizens Among Republican voters: - 57% believe Obama is a Muslim - 45% that he was not born in the United States - 38% that he is

doing many of the things Hitler did - 24% that he may be the Antichrist You're not listening! Civility

Motivated Reasoning People learn and make decisions for reasons To match their friends To avoid cognitive dissonance

To confirm bias To expand their minds To be true and accurate, etc. Hot vs. Cold cognition Goals for political voice Civility Frankness

Accuracy Thoroughness

The Semiotics of Voting What do we learn from voting? Voting is intensely public, but... The mechanics of voting are aggressively private

Actual and Reported Voter Turnout, 1960-2008 Vote Overreporting, 1960-2008 25 20

15 10 5 0 1960 1962 1964

1966 1968 1970 1972 1974 1976

1978 1980 1982 1984 1986 1988

1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000

2002 2004 2008 The Voting Ritual

Voting is the collective ritual by which we imagine ourselves as part of a public. Norman Rockwell, Town Meeting

Norman Rockwell, Freedom of Speech Twin Goals of Democratic Citizenship Deliberative Participatory Case 1: The Tea Party Movement, 2010-2012 The Santelli Rant (February, 2010)

Genuine Populism Sympathetic Media Sponsorship Money Felt Similarity to Clinton vs. Obama Similarity to: Clinton Obama

Party: Democratic 79.00% 71.00% Republican 13.00%

6.00% None/Other 40.00% 29.00% TPM Supporter Race: 21.00%

5.00% White 46.00% 36.00% African American 72.00%

84.00% Strong support for the TPM Explanatory Variables Conservative beliefs Coefficient (SE) 4.481** (0.499)

Authoritarian scale 0.739* (0.301) Libertarian scale 0.834*

(0.373) Nativism scale 0.784* (0.306)

Ontological insecurity 1.238** (0.263) Logistic regression model including demographic contro * p < .05, ** p < .01

Tea Party nostalgia We don't just want to go back six or seven years. We want to go back 200 years, to where our country as founded and say it was working great then, let's go back to those values! Laura Long Raleigh, NC Tea Party organizer Which of these groups do you like least? 60.00%

49.29% 50.00% 41.89% 40.00% 30.00% 20.00%

Positive Negative No Opinion 26.50% 25.15% 25.00% 19.09% 20.00% 19.70%

16.22% 16.06% 11.68% 10.81% 10.00% 7.12% 6.08%

5.41% 0.00% KKK Gay Rights Activists Nazis Atheists

Communists Using surveys for public voice Survey questions that are too specific encourage respondents to think they are making Vague or uncomfortable questions force citizens to choose who they are and what the Case 2: Same-Sex Marriage Hot vs. Cold Cognition in Same-Sex Marriage

How motivating are generic beliefs? gays and lesbians to marry a partner of the same sex two men to marry each other or two women to marry each other 36.6% 33.6%

Where's the Public in Public Opinion? ...public opinion, which we flaunt like a courtier Public and Non-Public Opinion

136 Focus groups Winter 1949-50 West Germany Guilt, the Jews, Democracy, etc. Fascist attitudes

unsettlingly close to the surface Technologies and the rules of listening Polling and the Choice-Making Citizen

Without polling, opining means deciding an issue is important, finding an audience, and actively expressing a view. With polling, the pollster decides what issues are important and delivers the audience; expressing a view means making a selection among predetermined choices. Polling shapes opinions

Wisian Americans Dating and life Invasion of Pago Pago

satisfaction Low-Attention Listening Low-Attention Citizenship Late 20th-Century Technologies

The Daily Me Internet audience targeting Mass availability of video recording Proliferation of channels Citizens can tailor the information they get to their pre-existing preferences

Access to Disagreement Most people know someone they disagree with, but... Most people don't talk about politics with people they disagree with, and... Even when they do, they distrust the motives instead of considering the ideas. What to do?

Pay attention Engage others in discussion, even when you disagree Be civil, frank, accurate, and thorough Balance hot and cold cognition Argue with ideas, not people Thank you

Neal Caren Lindsay Hirschfeld Kate McFarland Sally Morris

Jeffrey Olick Eliana Perrin Steven Tepper Robin Wagner-Pacifici Susan Wilker UNC Department of Sociology UNC Institute for Arts and Humanities National Endowment for the Humanities

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