Lance Morgan, our chief communications strategist, wrote a piece (linked below) for the Washington Post over the weekend discussing how to restore civility to the political process. Let us know what you think.
Did your mother teach you to behave like that? More and more Americans are asking themselves the same question about today’s political leaders, proving that civility in the political arena may take a candidate further than he or she thinks.
According to the second annual poll on Civility in America released today by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate in partnership with KRC Research, most Americans believe that incivility is a rising problem in politics and will consider civility when they cast their votes next November. And while pop culture, media, and government often take the heat as being centers of misconduct, the study found that 80 percent of Americans – the largest majority found in the survey – consider political campaigns to be a hub of incivility. Further, the survey shows that this perceived lack of civility in campaigns may have far-reaching implications, with 91% of respondents saying that incivility has negative consequences for the nation.
Consider this study a warning for all political campaign strategists who plan to include name-calling to their candidate’s line of attack. With 90 percent of participants admitting that “the way the candidate treats and deals with people he or she disagrees with” and “the candidate’s tone or level of civility” will play an important role in determining their vote for president in 2012, it’s clear that candidates who personally attack their opponents risk losing voter support.
Jack Leslie, Chairman of Weber Shandwick, recognizes the dangers of incivility in politics, explaining, "While everyone has the right to engage in vigorous debate, this kind of rampant incivility undermines our political process. It turns people off, creating at best apathy and at worst antipathy toward elected leaders."
The results of the study show that mom’s golden rule may prove to secure victories for political hopefuls in the upcoming presidential and congressional elections. With respondents defining civility as “respect,” “treating others as you would want to be treated” and “interacting with others with politeness and patience even under difficult circumstances,” it is evident that Americans will be demanding a different kind of politics from our nation’s future political hopefuls.
It’s not likely anyone from this office will ever have the opportunity to be nominated for an Oscar. Of course, we’ll never say never, but who needs an Oscar when you’re up for a Webby Award?
Powell Tate’s PoliPulse project has been nominated for the 15th Annual Webby Awards in the “politics” category for a website. The award was established in 1996 during the Web's infancy and is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet. Past winners include Amazon.com, Google, BBC News, Twitter and Wikipedia.
We’re extremely excited about this award as no other public affairs or communication firm made it this far in the “politics” category. We’re in good company as nominees for this award — we’re up against the New York Times, Politico, NPR, and FactCheck.org.
PoliPulse is our unique data visualization tool that presents a daily graphic summary of the topics driving online conversation to spot trends around concerns of current events. For example, our most recent topics are about a potential government shutdown, the debate around whether college athletes should be paid and the opinions of nuclear energy in light of the situation in Japan.
Here’s the best part about The Webbys: The winners - at least in part - are up to you. While the official Webby Award is decided by the Members of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, The People’s Voice Award is decided by you - the online community.
We encourage you to vote.
It is always interesting to be at the JFK School at Harvard, and I was honored to be part of a panel the school held on Ronald Reagan's legacy last week.
This event was especially important to me because it was a chance to reflect on Ronald Reagan the man and tell stories from behind the scenes at the Reagan White House.
The panel represented an interesting cross section. The Reagan alumni included a former and very savvy chief of staff (Ken Duberstein) and a brilliant economic policy expert (Roger Porter) plus the reporter who covered him throughout President Reagan’s political career (Lou Cannon). And me.
I was in a unique position because I got to see the Reagans behind the scenes while serving as Nancy’s press secretary.
- Ronald Reagan’s greatest strengths were his character and his ability to communicate. People trusted him and were willing to believe in him and the vision he painted for America as “a shining city on the Hill.”
- Nancy Reagan’s greatest service to the country – not her campaign against youth drug abuse, although that was a substantial contribution – was the way she helped protect the president from a variety of problems. As Ken Duberstein said of President Reagan’s interaction with his staff: “He trusted everyone and she acted as his verifier.” She had great antenna for people who were not acting in the best interests of the President. And she kept his schedule properly paced, a huge issue for any White House
Typically, staff tries to overload a president’s schedule because there is so much to be done. Nancy Reagan knew how Ronald Reagan functioned best and she helped make sure he had that kind of schedule.
She took a good deal of political heat for that during his White House years. But when Alzheimer’s disease struck him and she continued to protect him, the American people praised her for helping him be remembered as he was during his presidential years.
My old boss, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y), would periodically remind his staff that he was one of only 100 people in the United States who could pass laws, ratify international treaties and choose Supreme Court justices. Being a United States senator, in other words, was serious business and affected the nation immediately and well into the future.
According to a recent Gallup Poll, Congress’ approval rating now stands at 13 percent, about the level of infomercial pitchmen.
Allowing such highly regarded legislators the ability to bring electronic devices to the floors of the Senate and House is not going to raise that number. When C-SPAN’s cameras alight on Sen. Jones or Rep. Smith pinging away at their Blackberries or chatting on their cell phones, will the public think they are working to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution?
The public will think they are doing chores, getting scores or ignoring the bores droning on a few steps away. They will not think the gadget-bound are doing the people’s business. (I’d complain that using the machinery on the floor would inevitably distract the members from listening and contributing to the debate going on around them — except real debates don’t occur much anymore so that’s not too big a problem.)
At a time when we should all be thinking about how to contribute to thoughtful and civil public discourse, this is not the best time for our political leaders to focus attention on devices that promote instantaneous and brief communications. Cell phones, Blackberrys and all the technological marvels we live with — and can’t live without — make our lives better and easier.
Let our senators and representatives use them to their hearts content. But make them walk outside the chambers and do their typing, texting and talking. The American people don’t need another visible reason to question congressional behavior.
Speaking of my old boss — someone who thought and wrote with the next decade, not the next day, in mind — a compilation of his letters has just been published in a book edited by former New York Times reporter Steven Weisman. “Daniel Patrick Moynihan, A Portrait in Letters of an American Visionary,” is a treasure for anyone interested in the man Michael Barone called “America’s best thinker among politicians since Lincoln and its best politician among thinkers since Jefferson.”
David I. Leavitt
There’s no question that the new Republican majority in the House will mean big changes in the congressional agenda.
But one change has very little to do with politics: for the first time, the rules allow members of Congress to use electronic devices such as iPhones, Blackberrys and iPads on the House floor.
Wasting no time, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) live-tweeted events from the House floor on the opening day of the session. Her dispatches included photos, such as this one celebrating the occasion of Nancy Pelosi handing the speaker’s gavel to John Boehner.
The new policy prohibits only devices that “impair decorum” — a subjective distinction, to be sure.
It’s important for our lawmakers to be fluent in ubiquitous technology that the rest of the nation uses, both to stay on top of how the world works and to take advantage of the best communication technologies available.
Change happens slowly in our government. Until President Obama asked for a special security-enabled Blackberry, our presidents didn’t use email due to advice from White House attorneys.
In my view, it was a shame that George W. Bush did not use email while he was president. He clearly understood the importance of email in everyday life and commerce. As reported by the Weekly Standard, he had regularly used email before moving into the White House, saying: "There's no better way to communicate."
If there is no better way to communicate, then we did our nation a disservice by providing a disincentive for our presidents to use the best communications technologies available. I feel the same way when it comes to electronic devices on the floor of the House.
In 2011, when someone cites a fact or figure that we doubt, we instantly look it up online to make sure it’s accurate. Why should members of Congress — who are involved in important discussions in which it’s vital to get the facts right — be at a disadvantage?
Yes, it’s possible that some members will occasionally take advantage of this rule to conduct unofficial business on the floor of the House. There may be times when someone checks the score of a baseball game instead of paying attention to the debate.
However, the absence of electronic devices does not mean there aren’t members thinking about baseball when they’re on the House floor.
And besides, the upside of the new rule is far more important. As House Republican transition office spokesman Brendan Buck told the National Journal: "Prohibiting the use of all electronic devices on the House floor is an obstacle to efficiency.”
(Photo from Flickr user Joi.)
Two out of three Americans consider a general lack of civility to be a major problem for the nation and 72 percent think poor behavior has increasingly worsened in recent years, according to a survey Powell Tate conducted in partnership with KRC Research.
There is good cause to wonder what happened to our collective manners. According to most Americans, civility has declined in government and politics, on the roadways and in the media. The nation appears to be tired of mean spirited bloggers, professional athletes who act like children, politicians who viciously attack and businesses that behave badly.
As if to punctuate the point, General McChrystal’s disparaging remarks about his commander in chief in Rolling Stone magazine brought the issue of civility into the spotlight last week. His comments — and his firing — serve as a reminder that there are still lines that can’t be crossed, as fuzzy as they might be.
Below is a little analysis of our survey by yours truly. Enjoy — and don’t forget to use your manners at dinner tonight.
Executive Vice President and Senior Global Corporate Strategist
Senior Vice President
Chief Communications Strategist
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