Americans and Cancel Culture: Where some see calls for accountability, others see censorship, punishment (2023)

People questioned each other's viewsfor much of human history. But the internet—especially social media—has transformed how, when, and where these types of interactions happen. The number of people who can get online and call others about their behavior or words is immense, and it isnever been easierto call groupsjoin the public fray.

The sentence“cancel culture” is said to have emergedfrom a relatively obscure slang term – “cancel”, referring toto break up with someone– used in a 1980s song. This term was then referenced in film and television and later evolved and gained prominence on social media. In recent years, the culture of abandonment has become a highly controversial idea in the nationpolitical discourse. There is much debate about what it is and what it means, including whether it is a way of holding people accountable, or a tactic to unfairly punish others, or a mix of both. And some argue that culture canceldoesn't even exist.

In September 2020, to better understand how the US public views the concept of abandonment culture, the Pew Research Center asked Americans to share in their own words what they think the term means and, more broadly, how they feel about the act of exclaiming think others on social media. The poll found a deeply divided public, including about the meaning of the sentence.

how we did it

The Pew Research Center has a long history of studying the tone and nature of online discourse and emerging Internet phenomena. This report focuses on American adults' perceptions of the culture of cancellation and more generally speaking out to others on social media. For this analysis, we surveyed 10,093 American adults September 8-13, 2020. All participants are members of the Center's American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel recruited through national random sampling of residential addresses. In this way, almost all adult Americans have a choice. The survey is weighted to be representative of the US adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, political party affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about theThe ATP methodology.

This essay focuses primarily on the answers to three different open-ended questions and includes a number of citations to illustrate the issues and nuance the survey results. Quotations may have been slightly edited for grammar, spelling and clarity. Here are theQuestions used for this essay, along with answers, anditsmethodology.

Who has heard of "Cancel Culture"?

As is often the case when a new term enters the collective lexicon, the public perception of the term “breakout culture” varies—sometimes greatly—by demographic groups.

Overall, 44% of Americans say they've heard at least quite a bit about the term, including 22% who have heard a great deal, according to the center's survey of 10,093 U.S. adults conducted Sept. 8-13, 2020 would. an even larger proportion (56%) say they have heard nothing or not too much about it, including 38% who have heard nothing at all. (The survey was conducted a number of recentlyconversationsandcontroversiesvia abandonment culture.)

Familiarity with the term varies with age. While 64% of adults under 30 say they have heard a lot or quite a lot about the culture of quitting, this proportion drops to 46% for those aged 30-49 and 34% for those aged 50 and over.

There are also gender and educational differences. Men are more familiar with the term than women, as are those with a bachelor's degree or higher compared to those with a lower level of formal education.1

While discussions of quit culture can be very partisan, Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents are no more likely than Republicans and GOP-leaning independents to say they've at least heard quite a bit about the phrase (46% vs. 44%). (All references to Democrats and Republicans in this analysis include independents leaning toward either party.)

When ideology is factored in, liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans are more likely to have heard at least some of the abort culture than their more moderate peers within each party. Liberal Democrats are most familiar with the term.

How do Americans define "breakdown culture"?

As part of the survey, respondents who had heard of “abandonment culture” were given the opportunity to explain in their own words what they thought the term meant.

By far the most common responses revolved around accountability. About 49% of those familiar with the term said it describes actions people take to hold others accountable:2

A small fraction that mentioned accountability in their definitions also discussed how these actions can be inappropriate, ineffective, or overtly cruel.

About 14% of adults who had at least heard quite a bit about the abort culture referred to it as a form of censorship, such as restricting free speech or erasing history:

A similar proportion (12%) characterized the abandonment culture as malicious attacks used to harm others:

Five other different descriptions of the term abandonment culture also surfaced in Americans' responses: people abandoning someone they disagree with, consequences for those who have been challenged, an attack on traditional American values, an opportunity, issues such as racism or addressing sexism, or misrepresenting people's actions. About one in ten or fewer described the term in each of these ways.

There have been some notable partisan and ideological differences in what the term abort culture represents. About 36% of conservative Republicans who had heard the term described it as actions taken to hold people accountable, compared with about half or more of moderate or liberal Republicans (51%), conservative or moderate Democrats (54%) and Liberal Democrats (59%).

Conservative Republicans who had heard of the term weremorelikely than other partisan and ideological groups to see Cancel Culture as a form of censorship. About a quarter of conservative Republicans familiar with the term (26%) labeled it censorship, compared with 15% of moderate or liberal Republicans and about one in 10 or fewer Democrats, regardless of ideology. Conservative Republicans, aware of the phrase, were also more likely than other partisan and ideological groups to define cancel culture as a way for people to quit someone they disagree with (15% say so) or as an attack on the traditional American society (13% say so). ).

Click here for more definitions and explanations of abandonment culture.

Given that abandonment culture can mean different things to different people, the survey also asked about the broader act of calling others on social media about posting content that could be viewed as offensive — and whether this type of behavior more likely to hold people accountable or punish those who don't deserve it.

Overall, 58% of US adults say calling out others on social media is more likely to make people accountable, while 38% say it's more likely to punish people who don't deserve it. But opinions differ greatly depending on the party. Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to say they are generally held accountable for holding people accountable for posting objectionable content on social media (75% vs. 39%). Conversely, 56% of Republicans - but only 22% of Democrats - believe that this type of action generally punishes people who don't deserve it.

Within each party, there are some modest differences in these views by level of education. In particular, Republicans with a high school diploma or less (43%) are slightly more likely than Republicans with a college degree (36%) or at least a bachelor's degree (37%) to call people up for potentially offensive posts People, who are responsible for their actions. For Democrats, the opposite is true: those with a bachelor's degree or higher are slightly more likely than those with a high school or lower education to say that calling others is a form of accountability (78% vs 70%).

Among Democrats, about three-quarters of those under 50 (73%) and over 50 (76%) say calling out others on social media is more likely to make people accountable for their actions to be pulled. At the same time, majorities of both younger and older Republicans say this action is more likely to punish people who don't deserve it (58% and 55%, respectively).

People on both sides of the issue had the opportunity to explainwhyRather, they see calling others on social media about potentially offensive content as a form of accountability or punishment. We then coded these responses and grouped them into broad areas to frame the key themes of the debates.

How was this data encoded?

Initial coding schemes for each question were derived from reading the open-ended responses and identifying common themes. Using these themes, the coders read each response and encode up to three themes for each response. (If an answer mentioned more than three topics, the first three mentioned were coded.)

After all responses were coded, similarities and groupings between the codes became apparent both within and between the two questions on accountability and punishment. Therefore, the responses were grouped into broad ranges that framed the major disagreements between these two groups.

We identified five main areas of disagreement in respondents' arguments for why they hold their view of calling others, broken down as follows:

  • 25%of all adults raise issues related to whether people who call others are judgmental or trying to be helpful
  • 14%Focus on whether calling others on social media is a productive behavior
  • 10%Focus on whether freedom of expression or creating a comfortable online environment is more important
  • 8%address the differing agendas of those who invoke others
  • 4%Focus on whether speaking up is the best course of action when people find content offensive.

For the codes that make up each of these areas,See attachement.

About 17% of Americans who say calling others on social media holds people accountable say it can be an educational moment that helps people learn from their mistakes and do better in the future. Among those who say calling others is unfairly punished, a similar proportion (18%) say it's because people don't consider the context of someone's post or the intentions behind it before calling that person confront.

A total of,five types of argumentsstand out most often in people's responses. A quarter of all adults mention issues related to whether people who call others are judgmental or trying to be helpful; 14% focus on whether or not calling others on social media is a productive behavior; 10% focus on whether freedom of expression or creating a comfortable online environment is more important; 8% address the perceived agenda of those who call others; and 4% focus on whether speaking up is the best course of action when people find content offensive.

Are people rushing to judge or trying to be helpful?

The most common area of ​​opposing arguments about reaching out to others on social media stems from people's different perspectives on whether people reaching out to others are being judgmental or trying to be helpful instead.

One in five Americans who view this type of behavior as a form of accountability give reasons for how helpful it can be to call others. For example, in an open-ended question, some explained that they associate this behavior with moving towards a better society or educating others about their mistakes so that they can do better in the future. Conversely, about a third (35%) of those who view summoning others on social media as a form of unfair punishment cite reasons related to people shaming others being rash or judgmental. Some of these Americans see this type of behavior as overreacting or unnecessarily lashing out at others without considering the context or intentions of the original poster. Others emphasize that what is considered offensive can be subjective.

Is it productive to call others on social media?

The second most common source of disagreement revolves around the question of whether calling others can solve something: 13% of those who see calling others as a form of punishment touch on this issue when giving their opinion, as do 16% who see it as a form of accountability. Some, who see challenging people as unjust punishment, say it solves nothing and can actually make things worse. Others in this group question whether social media is an appropriate place for productive conversations, or see these platforms and their culture as inherently problematic and sometimes toxic. Conversely, there are those who see calling out others as a way to hold people accountable for what they post or to ensure people consider the consequences of their social media posts.

What is more important, freedom of expression or creating a pleasant online environment?

The Pew Research Center has studied the tension betweenfreedom of expression and securityonline for years, including the increasingly partisan nature of these disputes. This debate also crops up in the context of viewing content on social media. About 12% of those who see calling people as punishment state – in their own words – that they support freedom of expression on social media. In comparison, 10% of those who see it in terms of accountability believe things said in these social spaces matter or that people should be more considerate by thinking before posting content that is offensive or could make people uncomfortable.

What is the agenda behind targeting others online?

Another small fraction of people mention the perceived agenda of those who target other people on social media to justify why targeting others is being held accountable or penalized. Some people, who see others as a form of accountability, say it's a way to expose social ills like misinformation, racism, ignorance, or hate, or a way to get people to confront what they say online by explaining themselves. Overall, 8% of Americans who see shouting as a way to hold people accountable for their actions make this type of argument.

Conversely, those who view calling out to others as a form of punishment say it reflects people turning down someone they disagree with or forcing their views on others. Some respondents feel that people are trying to marginalize white voices and history. Others in this group believe that people who yell at others are dishonest and do so to make themselves look good. Overall, these types of arguments were made by 9% of people who see calling others as punishment.

Should people speak up when they are offended?

Arguments for why calling others is accountable or penalized also include a small but notable portion that debates whether calling others on social media is the best course of action for someone who finds a particular post offensive. About 5% of people who view summoning others as punishment say those who find a post offensive should not engage with the post. Instead, they should choose a different approach, e.g. B. Remove themselves from the situation by ignoring the post or blocking someone if they don't like what that person has to say. However, 4% of those who see others as a form of accountability believe speaking up is essential, as saying nothing makes a difference.

Aside from these five main bones of contention, some Americans see shades of gray when it comes to targeting other people on social media, saying it can be difficult to classify this type of behavior as a form of accountability or punishment. They note that cases can vary greatly and that the effectiveness of this approach is by no means uniform: sometimes those called out respond with heartfelt apologies, others may erupt in anger and frustration.

thanks attachmentmethodologytop line

What Americans Are Saying About Cancel Culture And Reaching Out To Others On Social Media

Below we have compiled a selection of quotes from three open-ended survey questions that address two key themes. Americans who have heard the term cancel culture were asked to define what it means to them. After answering a closed-ended question about whether they were more likely to slam others on social media, hold people accountable for their actions, or punish people who didn't deserve it, they were asked to explain why they held that view – that is, they weren't asked why they see accountability or why they see punishment.


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