Is There an Incivility Ceiling for Women?

03/01/2016 03:49 pm ET Updated Mar 01, 2017

Women don't take kindly to incivility. Weber Shandwick's 2016 research with Powell Tate and KRC Research on Civility in America found that women are significantly more likely than men to view incivility as a major problem today (72% vs. 61%, respectively) and one that has reached crisis proportions (74% vs. 66%).

Such a marked sensitivity by women to the lack of courtesy and respect here surprised me. For the most part, these gender differences are not slight but statistically significant. Women in our study, more so than men, report having experienced incivility while shopping (41% vs. 31%, respectively), at work (36% vs. 29%) and at school (29% vs. 21%). And when incivility crosses their paths, women report that they are less likely than men to accept the situation. They are more likely to remove themselves from the unpleasantness (62% vs. 49%) even if it means quitting a job because of an uncivil workplace (23% vs. 15%). Incivility may also cause women in America to refuse to buy products from companies whose employees are rude (58% vs. 48%) or turn a deaf ear to uncivil political conversations and debates (67% vs. 58%). Most women in America even think that incivility is such a problem that our children need civility training in school (77%).

Given the action women take, when is a backlash inevitable among women if the current presidential campaign continues its currently uncivil course? Will there come a point where enough is enough for the 126 million adult women in this country? Shouldn't presidential candidates be worried that women will rise up and vote against incivility in November or not vote at all?

Although likely female voters are only slightly more disposed than males to say that they have not previously voted for a political candidate because of lack of civility or uncivil tone (53% vs. 49%, respectively), will not the negative effect on female voting behavior necessarily increase as the candidate field narrows and the stakes rise? Will not incivility continue to accelerate well beyond even the currently unheard of levels? Or, will Donald Trump and the other presidential candidates who are growing more uncivil primary-by-primary alter their behavior as they move closer to the general election?

It remains to be seen. But women will have no small impact on the election results. They have voted in greater numbers than men in every presidential election since 1980. All indications are that if the politicians don't turn down the heat soon, hell will have no fury like the wrath of the female voter whose toleration of incivility is being sorely and too often tested.