Poll: Rudeness in America, 2006

In the ranks of rudeness, cell phones reign.

While vast majorities of Americans experience a range of rude behaviors at least occasionally in their daily lives, the one transgression that occurs most often is accompanied by a ring tone: People talking on cell phones, in public places, in a loud or annoying manner.

Eighty-seven percent of Americans in an ABC News "20/20" survey say they encounter that kind of gabbing at least sometimes, and a majority -- 57 percent -- hear it often. That takes the cake for frequency; by contrast, just under four in 10 often experience generally rude or disrespectful behavior, cursing, near-cursing or people interrupting conversations to use e-mail or cell phones.

Those other behaviors still occur aplenty: Tote up people who experience these "sometimes" as well as "often" and you get at least three-quarters in each case.

Bad Behavior
  See Often/Sometimes See Often
Making Annoying Cell Phone Calls   87%   57%
Being Rude and Disrespectful   84%   37%
Using Bad Language   80%   37%
Using Words Like B.S. and Freaking   77%   36%
Using Cells or E-mail Mid-Conversation   74%   36%

How bothersome these behaviors are is another matter. Rude or disrespectful behavior is the most objectionable -- among people who see it, nearly six in 10 say it bothers them "a lot." But many people have become inured to cell-phone offenses: Forty-five percent say rude use of cell phones bothers them a lot. About as many are very bothered by swear words, while least objectionable is the use of ersatz curses, such as "freaking" or "b.s." Twenty-five percent of Americans say that bothers them a lot.

Again, broader bother -- not just "a lot," but also including people who are somewhat bothered -- runs much higher, ranging from 83 percent for general rudeness to 50 percent for substitute swearing.

Bothered by Bad Behavior
  Bothered a Lot / Some Bothered A Lot
Being Rude and Disrespectful   83%   59%
Using Bad Language   75%   48%
Making Annoying Cell Phone Calls   71%   45%
Using Cell Phones Mid-Conversation   67%   38%
Using Words Like "B.S." or "Freaking"   50%   25%

Note to Men: Watch Your Mouths

Sensitivity to the lack of courtesy varies among groups, with women and older Americans most likely to be bothered by bad behavior. The biggest difference between the sexes is on the appropriateness of public cursing: Fifty-eight percent of women say it bothers them a lot, compared with 38 percent of men -- a big 20-point gap.

Women also are 16 points more likely than men to be very bothered by people who are rude or disrespectful in general, and nine to 13 points more apt to be bothered by other behaviors.

There are also differences by age. Seniors -- the least likely to use cell phones regularly -- are the most annoyed by loud cellular calls: Nearly six in 10 are bothered by it a lot, compared with 35 percent of those under age 35. Similarly, seniors are the most likely to be very bothered by people using cells or e-mail mid-conversation, cursing or the use of substitute curses.

OK, Many of Us Slip Up

Bad manners, to some extent, may be a thing of youth. Overall, in terms of their own behavior, 41 percent of Americans admit to sometimes being so busy and pressed for time that they're not as polite as they'd like to be. Among those under age 35 it's 48 percent; that drops to 38 percent among their elders.

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