Where are your manners? Politeness in modern Britain

Friday 2 May 2014

• New study released today ‘maps’ the nation’s manners across the generations • Despite the differences in age, children still have the same ‘manner musts’ as older generations • Using the most basic measure of good manners as a guide (saying please and thank you), 5-15 year olds came out as the least polite and 45-55 year olds the most polite.

Where are your manners? Politeness in modern Britain


British adults and children could be in need of some remedial ‘manners lessons’ according to a new study released today which questioned people on what constitutes bad manners as well as asking whether they are guilty of breaking the rules themselves.

Eating with your mouth closed, keeping your phone off at the dinner table, keeping its volume down on public transport, not swearing in front of others, not speaking over colleagues, offering seats to those less able to stand and saying please and thank you rated amongst the most important manners to uphold in the survey carried out by Saga.

Interestingly, the most important manner musts were the same across different generations, with both children and over 55s having similar views on some of the big manners no-nos including: chewing with your mouth open, swearing and not saying please and thank you.

However, using the most basic measure of good manners as a guide (saying please and thank you) 5-15 year olds came out as the least polite with 45-55 year olds the most polite. Furthermore, more than half of children sneeze and cough without covering their mouth, close to one in five push in front of others in queues, while the same number admit swearing in front of younger children, adults, the elderly and their teachers. One in seven also say they avoid eye contact on public transport, so they don't have to give up their seat. It’s probably no surprise then that two thirds have been told off for having bad manners by their parents, a quarter have been reprimanded by grandparents and one in five at school.

However, it’s not only children who admit to not minding their p’s and q’s; many adults admit taking calls when socialising (28%), swearing (22%) and speaking on the phone whilst buying something in a shop (19%). 9% have avoided holding the door for someone while out and about.

Despite clearly needing to brush up on their own manners, more than 80% of adults said parents should do more to teach their kids politeness, while almost 60% of mums and dads say schools should also play a part.

Emma Soames, editor-at-large, Saga Magazine, commented: "Despite many of us saying we judge others by their manners it seems that we all need to take a refresher course in acceptable manners.  It's startling that so many people avoid holding doors open and giving up seats on public transport and don't seem able to detach themselves from their smartphones to give people, even their friends, the courtesy of their undivided."

More than a third of adults say they would tell people off for bad manners, with that figure rising to almost half of over 55s, this age group is also most likely to judge someone on the standard of their manners.


Notes to editors


The research for Saga was carried out by Opinion Matters between: 08 / 04 / 2014 and 11 / 04 / 2014
Sample: 1164 UK adults Sample: 501 Children aged 5-16.

All research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines. Opinion Matters is registered with the Information Commissioner's Office and is fully compliant with the Data Protection Act (1998).

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