When I think about the current state of the world, I hear a lot of talk, but I find comfort in hard, solid facts. As I researched “hate,” I did a little digging to understand where things are and wanted to share a few facts from a scan of articles about this topic as well as data from Styles, Porter Novelli’s ongoing study of American attitudes and behaviors.
Recent studies from a number of reputable firms (see sources below) show that when it comes to direct indicators of tolerance/hatred, Americans are generally more accepting of social change than ever before. This is true for issues like interracial marriage, same-sex marriage, and even things like self-identification of being multi-racial in society (and changing questions in the U.S. Census to get answers like that). After long periods of resistance or intolerance, majorities of Americans support each of the issues above. While it seems like ancient history to some, it really wasn’t so long ago that interracial marriage was illegal and the gay rights movement was in its toddler years.
Despite these changes, surveys continue to show one area of increasing division in America: politics. Political divides seem to be growing sharper, and peoples’ willingness to listen to an opposing view has also declined. Our sources of information also differ widely and are now self-curated – this reflects the fracturing media landscape and is quantified in our Styles study and is true in my life experience, as well. People are unfollowing or blocking those with whom they disagree, and it is more often younger Americans than older (see figure below), who are doing so. The changes in political power here in Washington, DC have affected long-standing friendships, strained marriages, and caused fistfights in the streets. I literally witnessed a fight between two grown men in suits in the winter of 2017 just outside of the metro about the election.
The juxtapositions of divisions and acceptance could either reflect an inflection point in where we are in tolerance (that is, it’s gotten better, but now it’s going to get worse at a worsening rate on the remaining issues we have), or could reflect the idea that most of us are in the middle, and so, the remaining resistance is the strongest on each side of the extreme (politically/socially). I am not going to speculate on that, but I would like to share two things for reflection during this time when we look at hate, love and tolerance:
- The idea of “keep it to yourself” seems to be an emerging but dangerous theme. While Americans support free speech, most (especially those on the political right) are less comfortable sharing their views and tend to self-censor. This is a disturbing trend when people will only share their true points of view with their own tribe.
- The Urban/Suburban/Rural divide in America is a real concern. Where we live is a big driver of how we identify and whom we relate to in America. It is important to remember that our opinions reflect one world view; however, there are many others whose opinions have many shades and nuances. Differences in income, politics, economic outlook and who your friends are can drive wedges between us. Those wedges can be exploited by others.
Looking at the data and these emerging trends reinforces that we should all work to be more tolerant of discussion and opinion that diverges from our own. We may learn something and show we care. It also reinforces the importance of listening to other points of view, striving to make new friends from different places and embracing their differences. We may not always like what we hear or see, but at least we’ve tried and have opened our hearts and minds.
Justin Greeves is Executive Vice President, Global Research and Services for Porter Novelli.
Porter Novelli Styles is our proprietary longitudinal research program designed to understand the ongoing lifestyle trends, drivers and opinions of Americans. This representative survey, conducted using the GfK KnowledgePanel®, surveys more than 6,000 Americans per year and is weighted to the Census’ CPS to be representative of the US Population. Data from consumers is collected 3 times per year (Spring, Summer and Fall) and PNStyles also includes samples of Doctors and Tweens (12-17) once per year, as well as Estilos – a sample of Hispanic consumers in the US.
- PN Styles Survey 2017 – sample of 6,000 Americans 18+ across the US – fielded April and May 2017
- Ben Shapiro: Americans More Tolerant but Hate Each Other’s Politics
- America’s Getting More Tolerant and Haters Hate It
- The State of Free Speech and Tolerance in America
- What Unites and Divides Urban, Surburban and Rural Communities