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Source: David Procter, 785-532-6868, dprocter@k-state.edu
News release prepared by: Andrew Morris, 785-532-2535, media@k-state.edu

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


MANHATTAN -- People recognize that there is almost a total lack of civility in American politics right now, according to David Procter, director of Kansas State University's Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy.

"There's a contradiction, though," Procter said. "People recognize the lack of civility, and they claim they don't like it, but yet these same citizens get fired up and vote based on this outrageous talk."

Procter cited a recent study that shows the lowest trust in government in more than 50 years. The survey indicates that much of this governmental distrust is due to lack of civility in discussing politics.

"When we're uncouth, we're not just defeating a politician, we're tearing at the fabric of democracy," he said.

Procter has conducted numerous studies on political communication regarding the twisting of the truth in political advertisements, the effects of negative political advertisements on public perception, different campaign styles, how to detect lying and gender differences and similarities in politics.

Procter said ground rules are critical in a political debate and dialogue so people can discuss an issue in a civil manner. If hosting a political deliberation, he recommends that you're inclusive when inviting participants, and to make sure the moderator is a neutral facilitator. Procter said the moderator should be someone who can set his or her views aside to lead the discussion.

K-State's Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy has been able to talk about hot-button issues successfully by following a few basic rules, Procter said, adding that it helps if you structure the meeting in advance to promote these principles.

The institute's ground rules for public discussions include:

* Seeking understanding and common ground.

* Expecting and exploring conflicting viewpoints.

*Giving everyone the opportunity to speak.

* Listening respectfully and thoughtfully.

* Appreciating communication differences.

* Staying focused on issues.

* Respecting time limits.

By using these ground rules, Procter said that in meetings where there is significant disagreement and people argue passionately, it is still possible to have a civil conversation -- not a shouting match.

"People want to feel they've been heard, that they have made a difference," he said. "Productive dialogue provides people with the sense that the political system is working and not broken."

Procter also serves as director of K-State's Center for Engagement and Community Development.



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