Skip to site content

Rude, Crude and Socially Unacceptable: A Status Report on Americans Behaving Badly

A recent study conducted by Public Agenda and funded by Pew Charitable Trusts revealed that many Americans found it common to encounter people who are rude and disrespectful.

Eight in 10 surveyed said a lack of respect and courtesy is a serious problem, according to PublicAgenda.com. The study, “Aggravating Circumstances: A Status Report on Rudeness in America,” also revealed that six in 10 Americans thought the problem had gotten worse in recent years.

Surprisingly, 41 percent admitted that they were sometimes part of the problem. Thirty-five percent admitted to occasionally being aggressive drivers, while 17 percent admitted to using their cell phones in a loud or annoying way.

“It might seem that conducting a survey on courtesy is less important than exploring citizens’ views on, say, health care or education policy,” PublicAgenda.com noted. “Yet most human enterprises proceed more smoothly if people are respectful and considerate of one another, and they easily become poisoned if people are unpleasant and rude.”

The study found that many Americans find treatment by businesses and customer service “exasperating, and sometimes even insulting.” Nearly half of those surveyed said they have walked out of a business because of bad service.

Ninety-four percent said they were frustrated when they called a business and got a recording instead of a human being, and 77 percent said telemarketing was “rude and pushy.”

The news isn’t all bad. Nearly half of those surveyed said they often met people who were kind and considerate. Many Americans reported an increase in respect and consideration for African Americans (59 percent), people with disabilities (51 percent) and homosexuals (50 percent).

Of particular concern to those surveyed was the discourteous and disrespectful conduct of children. Who do they hold responsible for this poor behavior? Parents.

Most Americans said “too many parents don’t invest the energy needed to teach their children good behavior, and that too often they fail to set a good example themselves.” Even if parents are doing a great job, people said “social forces—especially in popular culture and the entertainment media—routinely undercut their efforts.”

So why are people so rude? The survey pointed to overcrowding, too much anonymity and the pressures of fast-paced lives. Other explanations revolved around “a declining sense of community, offensive and amoral entertainment media and an overall rise in selfishness and callousness.”

Visit PublicAgenda.com to view the full results of the study.