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Study Finds 38 Percent of Americans Unaware of Term ‘Cancel Culture’

¿Qué opiniones tienen los americanos sobre la cultura de la cancelación?

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Cancel culture is one of the most controversial political issues among Americans. The phenomenon is complex. It consists of singling out, usually through social networks, a celebrity, a company or an ordinary citizen for a message that is interpreted as offensive. It can also come for an action considered wrong by a part of society.

However, the phenomenon is very subjective, because what for some is offensive for others may simply be a different opinion or a politically incorrect stance on an issue. That is where the question arises: how do Americans view and what opinions do they have about the cancellation culture?

The Pew Research Center, through an exhaustive study, interviewed more than 10,000 Americans of different ideologies and political persuasions —mostly Republicans and Democrats— to find out how they interpret the cancel culture. The results are revealing, as they reveal a deep division of opinion in American society regarding the socio-political phenomenon.

Not all Americans know what cancel culture is

The first striking fact from the study is that only 44% of Americans have heard a fair amount or a lot about it, the other 56% said they have heard “not too much about it” and of that number, only 38% said they haven’t heard about it at all.

This can be explained by the fact that the cancel culture is a phenomenon that, nowadays, appears more in social networks and that is why young adults have more knowledge or heard more about the term. For example, 64% of adults under the age of 30 said they heard a lot or a fair amount about churn culture, however, “that share drops to 46% among those ages 30 to 49 and 34% among those 50 and older.”

As for how Americans define the cancel culture, the responses, which were written freely in short paragraphs, yielded several interpretations of the phenomenon. Forty-nine percent defined cancel culture as the “actions people take to hold others accountable,” 14% said it was a form of censorship, and another 12% said it was mean-spirited attacks on others.

According to the survey itself, “five other distinct descriptions of the term cancel culture also appeared in Americans’ responses: people canceling anyone they disagree with, consequences for those who have been challenged, an attack on traditional American values, a way to call out issues like racism or sexism, or a misrepresentation of people’s actions. About one-in-ten or fewer described the phrase in each of these ways.”

cancel culture
Opinions gathered by the Pew Research Center in its study. (Screenshot).

Political ideology influences people’s stance on cancel culture

According to the study, people’s political ideology or stance plays a determining factor within Americans’ concept of cancel culture.

“There were some notable partisan and ideological differences in what the term cancel culture represents,” the Pew Research Center reviewed. “Some 36% of conservative Republicans who had heard the term described it as actions taken to hold people accountable, compared with roughly half or more of moderate or liberal Republicans (51%), conservative or moderate Democrats (54%) and liberal Democrats (59%).”

The group of people who recognized themselves as conservative Republicans was the most likely to define the cancel culture as a form of censorship (26 %), in contrast, 15 % of moderate or liberal Republicans agreed with this definition and only one in ten Democrats, regardless of their political ideology, considered the cancel culture to be a form of censorship. Likewise, conservative Republicans were also the most likely to define the cancel culture as a way to cancel out anyone they disagree with (15%) or as an attack on traditional American society and values (13%).

Because the concept of cancel culture did not have a clear consensus among Americans, the Pew Research Center also asked respondents about the consequences of reporting or canceling people on social networks.

Some 58% of U.S. adults “say in general, calling out others on social media is more likely to hold people accountable, while 38% say it is more likely to punish people who don’t deserve it.”

These views depend heavily on the political party with which people feel represented. “Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to say that, in general, calling people out on social media for posting offensive content holds them accountable (75% vs. 39%). Conversely, 56% of Republicans –but just 22% of Democrats– believe this type of action generally punishes people who don’t deserve it.”

The rather broad and extensive Pew study also probes into what people believe the cancel culture is all about; whether people want to be useful to society or instead are quick to judge a third party without context of a message, it also raises the debate about what is more important: freedom of speech or creating a safe Internet environment for most users.

For example, 12% who define cancellation as unfair punishment said that freedom of expression on social networks is more important. Meanwhile, 10% of those who say that the cancel culture is to hold users responsible for their actions, said “people should be more considerate by thinking before posting content that may be offensive or make people uncomfortable.”

In short, the work of the Washington-based think tank is a new finding that helps to understand one of the most controversial phenomena in American society. Cancel culture became a focus of debate after movie artists, CEOs of companies and even ordinary citizens have been “canceled” on social networks just for expressing political positions generating difficult situations in their private and working lives.

Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón is a journalist at El American specializing in the areas of American politics and media analysis // Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón es periodista de El American especializado en las áreas de política americana y análisis de medios de comunicación.

Contacto: [email protected]

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