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Incivility pushes U.S. toward 'edge of civil war,' a new poll says

The average American voter believes the country is two-thirds of the way to the "edge of a civil war," according to yet another survey showing divisions in the country are bad and getting worse.

The survey, by Georgetown University's Institute of Politics and Public Service, also found voters held seemingly contradictory positions. They agreed that people had become too uncivil and that a focus on solutions and common ground and compromise should be the goal of political leaders. At the same time, similar numbers of respondents said they want leaders who stand up to the other side and stand up to powerful interests.


When respondents to the survey were asked to rate the level of civility in the country on a scale of 0-100, with the top end identified as being the "edge of a civil war," the mean response was 67.

Respondents disagreed on whom to blame for incivility in the survey, run by one noted pollster of each party. Republicans blame Democratic political leaders, social media, large newspapers, CNN and MSNBC. Democrats blame Republican political leaders, social media, Fox News, wealthy special interests and President Trump.

Other key findings in the poll include:

  • The greatest concern about uncivil and rude behavior by politicians came from women voters, Democrats and black voters.
  • More than eight in 10 believe "compromise and common ground should be the goal for political leaders."

The Democratic pollster, Celinda Lake with Lake Research Partners, said the highest level of intense agreement from independents is that politicians in Washington are spending too much time working with special interests. The GOP pollster, Ed Goeas with the Tarrance Group, said restoring a higher level of civility will "take a dedicated and courageous group of Republicans, Democrats and members of the media to reject the easy tactics of uncivil rhetoric that paints opponents as enemies."

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The House on Friday passed legislation to restore a provision of the Voting Rights Act struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. The bill would require advance approval of voting changes in states with a history of discrimination. Here President Lyndon Johnson shares one of the pens he used to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965 with civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Passage of historic voting rights law takes a partisan turn

In a partisan vote on an issue that once was bipartisan, House Democrats pushed through legislation Friday that would restore a key portion of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Advancement Act passed the House 228-187, with all Democrats voting for the bill and all but one Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, voting against it.

The bill faces virtually no chance of being considered in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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Big Picture

TV stations fight FCC over political ad disclosure

Broadcasters are pushing back against the Federal Communications Commission after the agency made clear it wants broader public disclosure regarding TV political ads.

With the 2020 election less than a year away and political TV ads running more frequently, the FCC issued a lengthy order to clear up any ambiguities licensees of TV stations had regarding their responsibility to record information about ad content and sponsorship. In response, a dozen broadcasting stations sent a petition to the agency, asking it to consider a more narrow interpretation of the law.

This dispute over disclosure rules for TV ads comes at a time when digital ads are subject to little regulation. Efforts to apply the same rules for TV, radio and print advertising across the internet have been stymied by Congress's partisanship and the Federal Election Commission being effectively out of commission.

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1952 Eisenhower Answers America

On TV, political ads are regulated – but online, anything goes

Lightman is a professor of digital media and marketing at Carnegie Mellon University.

With the 2020 election less than a year away, Facebook is under fire from presidential candidates, lawmakers, civil rights groups and even its own employees to provide more transparency on political ads and potentially stop running them altogether.

Meanwhile, Twitter has announced that it will not allow any political ads on its platform.

Modern-day online ads use sophisticated tools to promote political agendas with a high degree of specificity.

I have closely studied how information propagates through social channels and its impact on political messaging and advertising.

Looking back at the history of mass media and political ads in the national narrative, I think it's important to focus on how TV advertising, which is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission, differs fundamentally with the world of social media.

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