Bah, Humbug! 85% of Americans Think the Media Doesn't Pay Enough Attention to Peoples’ Good Deeds

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Bah, Humbug! 85% of Americans Think the Media Doesn't Pay Enough Attention to Peoples’ Good Deeds

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Google Article Tally for Past Month:

Tiger Woods 79,489 -- “Charitable Giving” 1,020
Politicians Not Viewed As Offering Much Help Either:
  • 83% Believe Average Citizens Care More About the Country than Politicians

  • 8 in 10 Say Political Discourse Obscures What’s Good for the Country

  • Only 16% Think Politicians Set a Good Example When it Comes to Public Service


Tiller CEO: “What We Have Here Is A Failure to Communicate”  
Monday, December 21, 2009 - 2:45pm

CAMPAIGN: 2009 Tiller Social Action Survey

CONTENT: Press Release

(3BLMedia/theCSRfeed) NEW YORK, N.Y., DEC. 21, 2009 –  With the holiday season upon us, a person’s thoughts turns to notions of charitable giving and goodwill towards men – unless, apparently, if you’re a journalist.

An overwhelming percentage of Americans – 97% – believe it’s at least somewhat important to contribute to the greater good, according to the results of the second-ever Tiller Social Action Survey, released by Tiller, LLC, a leading advocacy marketing consultancy. But the media is not widely viewed as encouraging good works. Eighty-five percent of respondents (46% strongly and 39% somewhat) agreed that the media does not pay enough attention to peoples’ good deeds.
Indeed, a Google News search revealed close to 10 times more mentions of Tiger Woods (79,489) over the last 30 days than volunteering (6,974), charitable giving (1,020), and good works (525) combined. 
“What we have here is a failure to communicate,” said Tiller CEO Rob Densen. “We call this ‘The New Tiger Woods Effect.’ Around the clock attention is paid to those who fall from great heights, but not nearly enough to those who would lift up the fallen. There’s nothing wrong with a good, salacious story every now and then, but a little more attention to good works couldn’t hurt.  It’s all about striking a healthier, more reasonable balance. ” 
The 2009 Tiller Social Action Survey was designed to better understand Americans' attitudes and behaviors relative to civic and charitable activities. It was conducted via the Internet between November 27 and December 2, 2009 by the national polling firm of Mathew Greenwald & Associates. All respondents were at least 21 years of age. The margin of error for the 1,000 interviews is +/-3.1%. The original poll was conducted in October, 2006.
Here’s a Good Story: In Terms of Helping Others, Americans Undeterred
Fortunately, neither the media’s lack of attention nor a struggling economy have taken a toll on Americans’ inclination to do good works. The survey found that four out of five Americans who give to charity say they will donate as much if not more this year than in 2008, 59% of us perform a “random act of kindness” at least weekly, and 95% of Americans believe it’s critical to teach children the importance of giving back.
 “It’s been a challenging year for many Americans. Unemployment hit a 25-year high and the markets hit a 12-year low, but our desire to help others has never wavered,” Densen said.   “Our pockets may not be quite as deep as they were last year, but we’re reaching in nonetheless.”
Politicians + Public Service = Oxymoron
The media aren’t the only ones who get low marks for encouraging good works, as the survey evidenced a deep-seated distrust of politicians relative to public service.
Only 16% of respondents (5% strongly and 11% somewhat) believe “politicians set a good example for the rest of us when it comes to public service.” When asked whose intentions they are most skeptical about relative to good works, 59% of survey respondents cited politicians, followed by business leaders (9%), celebrities/entertainers (9%) and religious leaders (8%).
“It is hugely ironic that politicians – who are, at least nominally, public servants – should be viewed so skeptically,” Densen said. “Our surveys have consistently pointed to a profound public suspicion about politicians and their motivations. The notion of politicians as public servants is bordering on the oxymoronic.  In general, politicians are perceived as having done precious little to support our inclination to good works.”
When asked what politicians should be doing to encourage more people to contribute to the greater good, “use their actions to set a good example” was hands down the top choice, cited by 75% of those surveyed.
Public Skepticism Extends to Obama’s Efforts to Encourage Volunteering
Three out of four Americans said they were aware of President Obama’s call for greater volunteerism, but 65% percent believe it was at least somewhat politically motivated.
Twenty-seven percent of Americans said Obama’s call to action made them more likely to volunteer and 14% said they had increased their volunteer activity since President Obama’s election. Among those who said they were more inclined to volunteer, 67% cited President Obama’s enthusiasm around the issue as a source of inspiration, 41% cited his history of community involvement, 37% cited a desire to answer a national call to action and 36% cited Michelle Obama’s active involvement in issues like kids and healthy eating.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the reaction to Obama’s call to action had a powerful break along party lines. Among Americans who were aware of Obama’s call for volunteerism, 47% of those who identified themselves as Democrats said Obama’s call to action made them more likely to volunteer but only 3% percent of Republicans and 16% of Independents said so. Similarly, less than half (47%) of Democrats thought Obama’s call was at least somewhat politically motivated while 89% of Republicans and 73% of Independents thought so.
At the same time, Americans strongly believe that political discourse has obscured the common good and that politicians should be doing a much better job – individually and together – of encouraging and facilitating good works.
Seventy-nine percent of Americans – compared to 82% in the 2006 survey – believe the tone of the political discussion makes it hard to know what’s best for the country and 78% agreed that “the political climate would improve if Americans spent more time helping others.” 
“In terms of advancing the nation’s interests, the path hasn’t grown any clearer over the last three years,” said Tiller principal James Marren. “That reflects, in large part, the acrimony and extreme partisanship of today’s political discourse. The Republicans were in charge in 2006 and the Democrats are today. We’ve changed administrations, but the tone and tenor of the political debate remains the same – rancorous.  As our survey shows, today’s fiercely partisan political discussion is seriously undercutting our sense of common purpose and shared humanity.”
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Tiller, LLC is one of the nation’s leading consultancies in the creation and implementation of advocacy marketing programs for major U.S. corporations. For more information on the 2009 Tiller Social Action Survey, a checklist of 12 random acts of kindness, and contact information for volunteer opportunities, please go to the Tiller website:  Have some fresh, creative ideas for random acts of kindness? Please send them to We will post our favorites on our website.
Mathew Greenwald & Associates is a premier full service market research firm headquartered in Washington, D.C.