POLITICS
05/15/2018 07:20 pm ET

Most People Think They're Being Civil About Politics. Their Opponents Disagree.

Everyone agrees that the national discourse is currently less than genteel -- and that the other side is to blame.
Shana Novak via Getty Images

Most Americans believe that they’re pretty respectful about their own political opinions, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll finds ― but few believe that their political opponents are paying them the same courtesy.

Nearly 80 percent of the public says that they are generally at least somewhat civil and respectful when it comes to politics, with 71 percent saying their friends and family are as well. But 40 percent or fewer think that civility is practiced by President Donald Trump, his supporters and opponents, the media, or politicians on either side of the aisle. Barely over a third consider it an apt descriptor of the nation as a whole.

Voters who supported Trump in the last election say that the president, his supporters and GOP politicians are usually respectful and that the media, Democrats and Trump’s opponents are not. Voters who backed Hillary Clinton take the polar opposite view, although both sides largely agree that the nation’s political discourse has become something less than genteel. The rest of the nation ― non-voters, and those who backed another candidate in 2016 ― largely don’t think that anyone beyond their immediate circle is being polite.

HuffPost

Whether each of these camps should try to be civil, of course, is far from a settled question ― one most recently most recently illustrated by the controversy over the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner speech. That dust-up mirrored larger rifts among the president’s opponents over whether “when they go low, we go high” is still an approach that works in the Trump era.

Two-thirds of Clinton voters say it’s “very important” to them that political discourse is civil and respectful, compared to just under half of Trump voters who say the same. Only 35 percent of non-voters and third-party voters place an equal level of importance on civility. 

HuffPost

Asked directly about their approach to the White House, however, Clinton voters say by an 18-point margin, 49 percent to 31 percent, that it’s more important for Trump’s opponents to do everything they can to oppose his policies than it is to respect the current norms of the American political system. (Just after the presidential election, they said the same by a fairly similar 23-point margin.)

Within Clinton’s base, opinions on that question diverge modestly along several demographic and ideological lines. Age and education level don’t seem to make much of a difference. But male Clinton voters are 10 points likelier than female Clinton voters to say Trump’s opponents should do “everything they can,” regardless of political norms, while self-described liberals are 13 points likelier than those who call themselves moderate or conservative, and white Clinton voters 15 points likelier than her non-white supporters. Those Clinton voters who say they follow what’s going on in politics “most of the time” are 24 points likelier to favor all-out opposition than those who pay less close attention.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted May 2-3 among U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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