NEW YORK – In conjunction with its Characters Unite public campaign to combat prejudice and discrimination, USA Network has released the results from its 2nd annual nationally representative opinion poll – “United or Divided” -- conducted by Hart Research Associates (D) and Public Opinion Strategies (R). In just one year since the inaugural survey, there’s been a significant increase in the percentage of Americans who think the country is too divided along racial and ethnic and political lines, as well as an increase in those who see the existing amount of intolerance, prejudice and discrimination as a serious problem. More than six in ten polled now say that the nation’s lack of unity has changed for the worse over the last decade. A little less than half the country (45%) believes that the economic recession has made people less tolerant and accepting.
"Ironically, it seems like the one thing most Americans agree on is that we're seriously divided, " said Bonnie Hammer, president, NBC Universal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios. "Acknowledging the problem is an important first step, but to avoid the consequences we've got to get out of our comfort zones and reach across the divide with understanding and respect."
Americans give the country a C GPA (grade point average) on its year-end civil rights report card. Many perceive that the country is doing somewhat better in terms of providing access for people with disabilities and achieving gender equality. However, nearly 70% of those surveyed graded the country a C or below when it comes to addressing racial prejudice, providing rights to gays and lesbians, promoting religious tolerance and preventing hate crimes. More than half (52%) said that America is below average (D) or failing (F) in preventing bullying of kids by other kids.
However, Americans appear to have mixed feelings on whether we should become a more tolerant and accepting nation. Half of respondents said that the country has either gone far enough or has already struck the right balance in providing rights for gays and lesbians. Sixty-two percent of respondents said that America is too tolerant of immigrants who first entered the country illegally. Nearly four in ten (38%) said that they would strongly or somewhat oppose a Mosque being built in their neighborhood, more than double than those who would oppose a church or synagogue. The country was also mixed on whether using certain expressions such as “that’s so gay” or “don’t be such a girl” or “you’re retarded” as insults is offensive and potentially damaging or mostly harmless.
Two years into President Obama’s Administration, more than half (52%) still think he is doing more to unite the country rather than divide it, but that support comes largely from Hispanics and African Americans. Only 41% of Whites believe the President is doing more to unite the country now. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin, Republicans and the Tea Party are all viewed as more divisive by approximately 60% of Americans, while the Democrats are viewed as more divisive by 49% of Americans.
The poll was commissioned as part of USA Network’s Characters Unite public service campaign dedicated to overcoming social injustices and bridging cultural divides. In conjunction with the poll, USA is premiering a new documentary, “Tom Brokaw Presents Bridging the Divide,” in which the NBC News Special Correspondent explores America’s civil rights progress and introduces new champions of change. The one-hour special premieres on Friday, December 10, at 7/6c.
Summary of the Key Findings:
More Americans Now Believe that Lack of Unity and Prejudice, Discrimination and Intolerance Have Become Worse in the Last Decade; Recession Believed to Makes Us Less Compassionate:
· Sixty-one percent said that the amount of division and lack of unity in the country has changed for the worse in the last decade, compared to 55% in last year’s survey. Forty-one percent said that the amount of intolerance, discrimination and prejudice has changed for the worse, compared to 32% just a year ago.
· The amount of intolerance, discrimination and prejudice that exists in the USA is considered to be a very or fairly serious problem by 59% of Americans, up 8 percentage points since last year’s survey.
· Nearly half the country (45%) believes that the economic recession has made people less tolerant and accepting.
Political and Racial/Ethnic Divisions Seen as Profound:
· Nearly eight in 10 (79%) Americans said that people in the USA are too divided along political lines. People on both sides of the aisle were in agreement.
· More than six in 10 (61%) said that the country is too divided along racial and ethnic lines, up from 53% a year ago.
· Among Hispanic Americans, the increase was 15 percentage points, with 69% now saying the country is too divided along racial and ethnic lines, compared to 54% a year ago.
America’s Civil Rights Report Card: A B C D F GPA
· Addressing Racial Prejudice: 4% 25% 44% 18% 8% 2.0
· Providing Rights for Gays and Lesbians: 8% 20% 36% 19% 13% 1.9
· Reducing Religious Divisions: 6% 22% 41% 18% 10% 1.9
· Preventing Hate Crimes: 6% 21% 37% 22% 12% 1.8
· Stopping Bullying by Kids 4% 13% 29% 29% 23% 1.5
Only providing equal opportunities for people with disabilities and achieving equality between men and women got As and Bs from a majority of respondents.
Many Americans Would Oppose a Mosque in Their Own Neighborhoods, Not Just Near Ground Zero:
· Thirty-eight percent of Americans would somewhat or strongly oppose having a mosque built in their neighborhood, while only 8% would oppose a church being built and 13% would oppose a synagogue.
· Sixty-eight percent said that they believe Muslims experience prejudice fairly or very often, up from 60% last year.
· It appears that many Americans agree with Juan Williams’ controversial statement. Nearly four in ten (38%) said they worry when they see someone dressed in Muslim clothes in a crowded public place that he/she might be a terrorist.
Bullying Considered to Be a Serious Problem, Not Just Media Hype:
· Eighty-nine percent believe that bullying/cyber-bullying is a very serious or somewhat serious problem today.
· Seven in 10 Americans said that recent incidents of students committing suicide after being bullied are part of larger problem and growing trend. Only approximately one-quarter (26%) said that they were just isolated examples exaggerated by the media.
· Eighty-five percent would strongly or somewhat support Congress passing a law to require schools to enforce specific rules to help stop bullying.
Despite Mid-Term Election Victories, Sarah Palin, the Republican Party and the Tea Party Seen as Doing More to Divide the Country; President Obama Still Considered to Unite People, But Loses Ground Among Whites and Independents:
· Sixty percent of Americans believe that Sarah Palin is doing more to divide people.
· Overall, 52% of the country thinks that President Obama is doing more to unite people, but only 41% of whites agree.
· Nearly six in ten (58%) said that the Republican Party and Tea Party are doing more to divide the country; while 49% believe that the Democratic Party is more divisive than unifying.
Though Many Are Favorable to Recent Consideration of Eliminating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy and Allowing Same Sex Unions, A Majority Says the Country Has Done Too Much or Enough to Provide Gay Rights:
· Nearly a majority (48%) of Americans favorably view recent steps to possibly allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military or states’ efforts to allow gay marriage or civil unions, while 27% see these developments as somewhat or very unfavorable.
· However, 25% of Americans said that the country has gone too far in providing rights for gays and lesbians and another 25% are satisfied with things as is.
Harmless or Damaging Expressions?
· Americans are split on whether using the expression “that’s so gay” as an insult is offensive and potentially damaging or not a big deal and mostly harmless, with 47% saying that it’s mostly harmless and 50% saying its offensive.
· More than six in ten (61%) said that “you’re retarded” is offensive and potentially damaging vs. 37% who said it was not a big deal to use once in a while. However, saying “don’t be such a girl” and meaning it as an insult was considered to be mostly harmless by 64%.
About Characters Unite:
Characters Unite, USA Network’s new community affairs program, was created in January 2009 to address the social injustices and cultural divides still prevalent in our society. Created on the simple premise that life is richer when people see beyond stereotypes and appreciate individual differences, Characters Unite kicked off with a national on-air public service campaign and a multimedia pledge drive for unity and understanding.
Inspired by USA Network’s iconic “Characters Welcome” brand and with the support of leading national not-for-profit organizations, the ongoing, multimedia campaign is dedicated to supporting activities and messaging that combat prejudice and intolerance while promoting understanding and acceptance – on-air, online, and in communities across the country.