Members of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, Toni Massaro (pictured above) and Robyn Stryker, discuss a report they have recently produced examining civil discourse during this election season.

The National Institute for Civil Discourse is experiencing its first election cycle, and while institute officials say they want candidates to speak civilly to and about each other, they also want to assure people that freedom of speech is still important.

A new report from the institute explains that civility doesn’t keep political messages quiet; it just means that personal attacks are out of line. The report also says polling data indicates Americans are tired of negative advertising.

"Eight in 10 Americans think that uncivil political discourse is a real problem, and 82 percent say they tune out from advertising because they find it too mean-spirited and nasty," says Robin Stryker of the University of Arizona's institute.

Despite that, including a flurry of negative political advertising in Arizona, voter turnout has risen in the last several years.

"It turns out, it's not negative speech, per se," Stryker says. "After all, drawing attention to the difference between oneself and one's opponent on the issues ... that brings people to the polls. What turns people off and what the research has shown is that serious mudslinging, smear tactics, unrelentless false, deceptive advertising, that's when people tune out, and also when people don't go to the polls."

Freedom of Speech and Civility Report: View at Google Docs | Download File