By Mark Emmons, Reuters – 09/10/2003 – 12:00am
Ugly Americans are everywhere, and in greater numbers than before–so say Americans themselves.
A survey released on Wednesday by Public Agenda, a nonprofit organization dedicated to unbiased public opinion research, said three out of five people believed rude and selfish behavior had increased on highways and in stores in recent years.
“Lack of manners for Americans is not whether you confuse the salad fork for the dinner fork,” said Deborah Wadsworth, president of Public Agenda. “It’s about the daily assault of selfish, inconsiderate behavior that gets under their skin on the highways, in the office, on TV, in stores and the myriad other settings where they encounter fellow-Americans.”
The survey, “Aggravating Circumstances–A Status Report on Rudeness in America,” found that 73% of those polled thought Americans treated each other with greater respect in the past, although 21% called that idea false nostalgia.
A solid majority felt Americans had become more thoughtful and caring after the September 11 attacks, but far fewer thought the good feeling would persist. And just over half of respondents said they believed the money donated to September 11 victims would be misused or misdirected.
Bad service from sales staff drove 46% of respondents out of stores in the past year. Among those earning more than $75,000 a year, 57% said they had had left a store because of the service, the study said. A common complaint was that salespeople acted as though the customer did not exist. Eight out of 10 respondents said store owners were to blame for cutting back on hiring and making customers wait for service.
Survey respondents also voiced displeasure at inconsiderate cell phone users. Asked how to address the problem, 61% backed legislation banning cell phone use in public settings such as restaurants, movies and museums. Also, 58% said they often encounter rude drivers, with just 35% admitting to such behavior themselves.
The study, prepared for The Pew Charitable Trusts, surveyed 2,013 adults in a nationwide telephone poll between January 2 and January 23. It included focus groups in Cleveland, Ohio; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; St. Louis, Missouri; Frisco, Texas; Danbury, Connecticut; Fort Lee, New Jersey; and Berkeley, California. The margin of error was plus or minus 2%.