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

Vast majority of Americans believe that technology has made it easier to bully someone

NEW YORK, Feb. 19, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- 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.

Harris Poll Logo.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,250 adults surveyed online between November 13 and 18, 2013. (Full results, including data tables, can be found here)

"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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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

Press Contact:
Corporate Communications
The Harris Poll
[email protected]


SOURCE Harris Poll

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