6 in 10 Americans Say They or Someone They Know Have Been Bullied

NEW YORK , N.Y. – February 19, 2014 – School bullying, unfortunately, continues to make regular appearances in both local and national headlines. While several prominent bullying incidents in recent years have led to an increase in efforts to combat the issue, it seems to persevere; use of social media and texting to bully peers adds to the complexity which communities face when trying to address the matter. And with six in ten U.S. adults (61%) feeling that bullying in schools today is more common than when they were in school, we as a society still clearly have our work cut out for us.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,250 adults surveyed online between November 13 and 18, 2013.

This is an issue affecting a great many Americans, and there’s a very real perception that it’s getting worse, says Jen Loukes, vice president of the Harris Poll School Pulse, Harris Interactive’s longstanding School Satisfaction study. In our continued research into the many relationships and experiences which affect the scholastic ‘ecosystem’ – which we first examined in our recent study on respect between teachers, students and other K-12 ‘stakeholders’ – we feel it’s essential to discuss bullying and related issues which can so negatively impact the school experience.

School bullying hits home

Six in ten (60%) say that either they or someone they know have experienced (or are currently experiencing) bullying in school. This includes saying they personally recall being bullied when they were in school (44%), knowing someone else who either was (36%) or is currently being (6%) bullied in school, or having/being at least partly responsible for a child who has been or is being bullied in school (9%; 19% among those with school aged children).

What’s more, among U.S. adults with children in school at the K-12 grade levels, over a third (35%) believe that bullying is a problem at their child’s school.

Technology makes it easier – to make someone else’s life harder

As several recent cases have demonstrated, bullying by proxy – whether via texting, social media or other methods – can be devastatingly effective without bullies even being in the same room as their targets. As such, it’s perhaps not surprising that three-fourths of Americans (76%) believe that bullying in schools today is more emotional than physical. What’s more, an overwhelming majority of U.S. adults (85%) agree – 65% strongly so – that technology has made it easier to bully someone.

But while students may be using tech to bully their peers while outside of school, and there are complex legal implications to consider when it comes to policing student activity off school grounds, a majority of Americans (59%) nonetheless believe that if a child is bullied outside of school, it is still the school’s responsibility to address the situation.

Whose responsibility is it?

This leads to one of the issue’s biggest challenges: whose responsibility is it, ultimately, to prevent or combat bullying? And does the answer to this question change based on whether it’s bullying in schools or bullying via texts or social media that’s under discussion?

When Americans are asked to identify the party or parties they feel should be most responsible for opposing bullying in these ways, the top response for both types of bullying is parents of children who bully (46%). Perceptions of the most responsible parties diverge from there:

  • When discussing bullying in schools, teachers (41%) and school administrators (34%) are the next most prevalent responses, followed by all students in the school (31%), students who bully (25%), all parents in the community (22%) and the parents of children being bullied (19%)
  • For bullying via social media or text, the next most common perspective is that social media sites (34%) should be among those most responsible for preventing or combating this type of bullying, followed by students who bully (25%), all parents in the community (24%), parents of children being bullied ((24%) and all students in the school (20%).

Taking a stand

A majority of Americans (59%) agree that there is more adult intervention for bullying in schools today than when they were in school, but whether this is perceived as a positive or a negative is unclear. In fact, just over half of U.S. adults (53%) believe that over-protecting school aged children could be bad for their ability to stand up for themselves.

But while exactly how to address the situation may still be under discussion, there are a few things Americans seem to consider off the table in this regard.

Few Americans seem to believe that bullying, particularly in schools, is a problem best addressed by attempting to legislate it away. When choosing up to three parties they see as most responsible for preventing or combating bullying in schools, local government (4%) state government (3%) and the federal government (3%) are the parties with the fewest finger pointing their way.

And while many bullying victims over the years have heard the old refrain that they should simply try to ignore their tormentors, there appears to be a consensus that this is not the right approach, with only 26% agreeing that a good strategy for handling bullying is to ignore it and nearly two-thirds (65%) disagreeing (46% strongly so).

For information regarding Harris Interactive’s Harris Poll School Pulse satisfaction management tool, please contact [email protected].

To view the full findings, or to see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

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TABLE 1

EXPERIENCES WITH BULLYING

By School Aged Child(ren), Generation & Gender

Now we’d like you to think about bullying in schools, specifically within grades K-12. Which of the following, if any, describe experiences you have had with bullying? Please select all that apply.

Base: U.S. Adults

Total

Have School Aged Child(ren)

Generation

Gender

Echo Boomers (18-36)

Gen Xers (37-48)

Baby Boomers (49-67)

Matures (68+)

Male

Female

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

I or someone I know was bullied or is being bullied in school (NET)

60

61

65

60

59

47

61

58

I recall being bullied when I was in school.

44

42

48

46

43

30

48

40

I know someone else who was bullied when they were in school.

36

34

43

37

33

25

39

34

My child or a child I am at least partly responsible for has been or is currently being bullied in school.

9

19

7

12

10

8

8

10

I know someone else who is currently being bullied in school.

6

11

9

6

3

2

4

7

I witnessed bullying when I was in school.

48

47

55

53

43

35

53

43

I helped someone who was being bullied when I was in school.

26

31

33

28

23

14

28

24

I bullied someone else when I was in school.

10

11

14

9

8

4

12

8

My child or a child I am at least partly responsible for has been accused of bullying in school.

2

5

4

2

1

1

3

2

None of these

28

24

22

23

31

45

25

31

Note: Multiple responses allowed


TABLE 2a

PARTIES SEEN AS MOST RESPONSIBLE FOR PREVENTING/COMBATING BULLYING IN SCHOOLS

By Generation, Gender & Political Party

Among the following, who do you believe should be most responsible for preventing or combating each of these types of bullying? Please select up to three for each. [BULLYING IN SCHOOLS]

Base: U.S. Adults

Total

Generation

Gender

Political Party

Echo Boomers (18-36)

Gen Xers (37-48)

Baby Boomers (49-67)

Matures (68+)

Male

Female

Republican

Democrat

Independent

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Parents of children who bully

46

41

49

50

48

42

51

49

43

46

Teachers

41

40

37

42

50

41

41

43

40

45

School administrators

34

30

38

35

36

29

39

35

37

32

All students in the school

31

29

29

35

31

32

31

28

30

39

Students who bully

25

28

26

25

16

25

25

25

27

24

All parents in the community

22

21

19

22

26

23

21

21

21

26

Parents of children being bullied

19

18

17

20

19

19

18

23

17

15

School boards

13

13

13

14

15

12

15

11

16

13

Students who are being bullied

10

12

7

8

14

10

9

10

10

8

A community at large

10

8

10

10

14

9

10

7

11

11

Social media sites

5

7

3

5

2

5

4

5

3

5

Local government

4

7

4

2

3

5

3

2

6

3

State government

3

4

3

3

2

4

2

1

5

3

Federal government

3

5

3

1

2

3

3

1

5

1

Note: Multiple responses allowed


TABLE 2b

PARTIES SEEN AS MOST RESPONSIBLE FOR PREVENTING/COMBATING BULLYING IN SCHOOLS

By School Aged Child(ren) & Experiences with Bullying

Among the following, who do you believe should be most responsible for preventing or combating each of these types of bullying? Please select up to three for each. [BULLYING IN SCHOOLS]

Base: U.S. Adults

Total

Have School Aged Child(ren)

Was Bullied When in School

Have a Child that Has Been or Is Being Bullied

Yes

No

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

Parents of children who bully

46

42

49

44

46

46

Teachers

41

37

46

38

45

41

School administrators

34

35

35

33

35

34

All students in the school

31

31

29

33

35

31

Students who bully

25

25

26

24

26

25

All parents in the community

22

18

24

21

16

22

Parents of children being bullied

19

19

18

19

19

19

School boards

13

13

14

13

14

13

Students who are being bullied

10

8

10

10

6

10

A community at large

10

8

9

10

9

10

Social media sites

5

3

4

5

5

5

Local government

4

4

5

4

5

4

State government

3

5

3

4

4

3

Federal government

3

5

2

4

3

3

Note: Multiple responses allowed


TABLE 3a

PARTIES SEEN AS MOST RESPONSIBLE FOR PREVENTING/COMBATING BULLYING VIA SOCIAL MEDIA OR TEXT

By Generation, Gender & Political Party

Among the following, who do you believe should be most responsible for preventing or combating each of these types of bullying? Please select up to three for each. [BULLYING ON SOCIAL MEDIA SITES OR VIA TEXT]

Base: U.S. Adults

Total

Generation

Gender

Political Party

Echo Boomers (18-36)

Gen Xers (37-48)

Baby Boomers (49-67)

Matures (68+)

Male

Female

Republican

Democrat

Independent

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Parents of children who bully

46

42

47

50

45

43

49

50

41

49

Social media sites

34

34

31

34

40

30

38

35

34

33

Students who bully

25

27

25

26

14

24

25

23

25

24

All parents in the community

24

23

23

24

28

25

23

24

21

29

Parents of children being bullied

24

22

21

27

25

23

24

31

21

20

All students in the school

20

21

19

21

18

21

19

18

21

20

A community at large

15

15

17

12

19

13

17

15

18

13

Students who are being bullied

11

13

10

9

12

11

11

12

9

10

School administrators

10

12

13

9

7

12

10

10

12

10

Federal government

10

10

11

10

11

9

11

8

13

10

Teachers

9

10

10

9

8

11

8

9

9

12

State government

9

11

10

9

6

9

10

6

13

8

Local government

9

9

7

7

13

7

10

4

12

9

School boards

6

8

2

6

5

7

5

3

7

4

Note: Multiple responses allowed


TABLE 3b

PARTIES SEEN AS MOST RESPONSIBLE FOR PREVENTING/COMBATING BULLYING VIA SOCIAL MEDIA OR TEXT

By School Aged Child(ren) & Experiences with Bullying

Among the following, who do you believe should be most responsible for preventing or combating each of these types of bullying? Please select up to three for each. [BULLYING ON SOCIAL MEDIA SITES OR VIA TEXT]

Base: U.S. Adults

Total

Have School Aged Child(ren)

Was Bullied When in School

Have a Child that Has Been or Is Being Bullied

Yes

No

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

Parents of children who bully

46

41

52

42

48

46

Social media sites

34

34

33

35

39

34

Students who bully

25

25

27

23

30

24

All parents in the community

24

24

24

24

20

24

Parents of children being bullied

24

22

23

24

23

24

All students in the school

20

22

20

20

21

20

A community at large

15

13

15

15

16

15

Students who are being bullied

11

10

11

11

8

11

School administrators

10

11

10

11

7

11

Federal government

10

10

11

10

12

10

Teachers

9

10

9

10

8

10

State government

9

8

10

9

9

9

Local government

9

7

9

9

8

9

School boards

6

7

6

5

10

5

Note: Multiple responses allowed


TABLE 4a

AGREE/DISAGREE WITH BULLYING STATEMENTS

Summary Table

Still thinking about bullying within grades K-12, how much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

Base: U.S. adults

 

Agree (NET)

Strongly agree

Somewhat agree

Disagree (NET)

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree

Not at all sure

Technology has made it easier to bully someone.

%

85

65

20

5

3

2

10

Bullying in schools today is more emotional than physical.

%

76

39

36

12

8

3

13

Bullying in schools today is more common than when I was in school.

%

61

38

24

25

16

9

14

There is more adult intervention for bullying in schools today than when I was in school.

%

59

28

31

25

15

10

17

If a child is bullied outside of school, but by other kids from their school, it is still the school’s responsibility to address the situation.

%

59

28

30

31

21

10

11

Over-protecting school-age children from bullying could be bad for their ability to stand up for themselves.

%

53

16

36

37

23

14

10

Bullying occurs more often outside of school than it does inside school.

%

47

14

33

32

26

6

21

Girls are more likely than boys to be bullied by their fellow students.

%

45

16

29

35

25

10

20

Boys are more likely than girls to bully their fellow students.

%

35

12

23

48

32

16

17

A good strategy for handling bullying is to ignore it.

%

26

8

17

65

20

46

9

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding


TABLE 4b

AGREE WITH BULLYING STATEMENTS

By Generation & Gender

Still thinking about bullying within grades K-12, how much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

Base: U.S. Adults

Total

Generation

Gender

Echo Boomers (18-36)

Gen Xers (37-48)

Baby Boomers (49-67)

Matures (68+)

Male

Female

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Technology has made it easier to bully someone.

85

81

87

87

86

84

86

Bullying in schools today is more emotional than physical.

76

75

83

73

72

75

76

Bullying in schools today is more common than when I was in school.

61

56

61

63

71

55

67

There is more adult intervention for bullying in schools today than when I was in school.

59

57

64

59

52

59

59

If a child is bullied outside of school, but by other kids from their school, it is still the school’s responsibility to address the situation.

59

54

59

61

64

54

63

Over-protecting school-age children from bullying could be bad for their ability to stand up for themselves.

53

57

54

50

46

58

47

Bullying occurs more often outside of school than it does inside school.

47

50

49

43

45

47

47

Girls are more likely than boys to be bullied by their fellow students.

45

48

49

42

41

41

49

Boys are more likely than girls to bully their fellow students.

35

35

33

33

40

40

29

A good strategy for handling bullying is to ignore it.

26

32

26

21

20

28

23

 

TABLE 4c

AGREE WITH BULLYING STATEMENTS

By School Aged Child(ren) & Experiences with Bullying

Still thinking about bullying within grades K-12, how much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

Base: U.S. Adults

Total

Have School Aged Child(ren)

Was Bullied When in School

Have a Child that Has Been or Is Being Bullied

Yes

No

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

Technology has made it easier to bully someone.

85

85

88

83

84

85

Bullying in schools today is more emotional than physical.

76

78

74

77

72

76

Bullying in schools today is more common than when I was in school.

61

64

49

71

63

61

There is more adult intervention for bullying in schools today than when I was in school.

59

61

60

58

55

59

If a child is bullied outside of school, but by other kids from their school, it is still the school’s responsibility to address the situation.

59

60

62

56

64

58

Over-protecting school-age children from bullying could be bad for their ability to stand up for themselves.

53

56

52

53

53

53

Bullying occurs more often outside of school than it does inside school.

47

50

47

47

48

47

Girls are more likely than boys to be bullied by their fellow students.

45

51

46

45

45

45

Boys are more likely than girls to bully their fellow students.

35

34

33

36

33

35

A good strategy for handling bullying is to ignore it.

26

33

23

28

34

25

 

TABLE 5

IS BULLYING A PROBLEM AT YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL?

Thinking of your child in [GRADE], is bullying a problem in your child’s school?

Base: U.S. Adults with one or more school aged children

Have School Aged Child(ren)

%

Yes

35

No

65

Note: Percentages may not add to 100% due to rounding


Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between November 13 and 18, 2013 among 2,250 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

The Harris Poll® #17, February 19, 2014

By Larry Shannon-Missal, Harris Poll Research Manager

About Nielsen & The Harris Poll

On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll. Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.