Rude Democracy

Civility and Incivility in American Politics

Susan Herbst
Awards from the previous edition:
Doris Graber Award, American Political Science Association, 2013
Association of American University Presses Book Jacket Award, 2011
Book Cover

PB: $14.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0336-0
Publication: Apr 20

HC: $26.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0335-3
Publication: Aug 10

Ebook: $14.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0337-7
Publication: Apr 20

226 pages
5.5 x 8.25
4 tables

A look at how civility and incivility are strategic weapons on the state of American democracy, now with a new Preface for 2020

Read Chapter 1 - hardcover version (pdf.)


"In this thought-provoking text, Susan Herbst tackles the role of civility in public discourse.... Throughout Rude Democracy , Herbst identifies potential empirical research topics and unmet scholarly needs into which a new generation of scholars can profitably delve."
—Perspectives on Politics

"Herbst’s contention that incivility and civility should be viewed as strategic assets is potentially game changing and a contribution that all future scholarly work on incivility cannot ignore."
—Journal of Politics

"(A) valuable, fair-minded book. It is a contribution to the literature of history, ethics, and public affairs, and it could easily be used to stimulate lively classroom conversations—the kind that spill into the halls when the hour has ended."
—Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly

Democracy is, by its very nature, often rude. But there are limits to how uncivil we should be. In the 2010 edition of Rude Democracy, Susan Herbst explored the ways we discuss public policy, how we treat each other as we do, and how we can create a more civil national culture. She used the examples of Sarah Palin and Barack Obama to illustrate her case. She also examined how young people come to form their own attitudes about civility and political argument. In a new preface for this 2020 paperback edition, the author connects her book to our current highly contentious politics and what it means for the future of democratic argument.

Table of Contents

Preface to the 2020 Paperback Edition

1. The Powerful—if Elusive—Nature of Civility
2. Sarah Palin and Her Publics
3. Barack Obama, Difference, and Civility
4. Our Future Leaders: College Students and Political Argument
5. Conclusion: Civility, Communication, and aCulture of Argument

Appendix I: Transcript of President Barack Obama’s Commencement Address, University of Notre Dame, May 17, 2009
Appendix II: University System of Georgia Survey on Student Speech and Discussion


About the Author(s)

Susan Herbst is University Professor of Political Science and President Emeritus at the University of Connecticut. She is author of many books and articles on American politics including Numbered Voices: How Opinion Polling Has Shaped American Politics, Politics at the Margin: Historical Studies of Public Expression Outside the Mainstream, and Reading Public Opinion: How Political Actors View the Democratic Process. Previously, she was Chief Academic Officer for the University System of Georgia, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Temple University, and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Northwestern University.