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MTV, Associated Press-NORC Center Survey Finds Discriminatory Language Still Pervasive Online, More Young People Say It's Never Okay

Press Release

​New York, NY – November 20, 2013 – MTV and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research today released new results from a recent survey that explores the pervasiveness of digital discrimination among teens and young adults, how it is affecting America’s youth, and how they’re responding to it. According to the survey, use of discriminatory language is as pervasive as it was in 2011, with 1 in 2 young people reporting that they sometimes or often see or hear people using discriminatory language or images on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.

Similar to 2011, the groups most frequently discriminated against online include the overweight, LGBTQ, African Americans and women, and the places young people encounter discriminatory language the most are YouTube, online gaming communities, and Facebook (56 percent, 54 percent, and 53 percent respectively). Overall, growing numbers of young people view the use of discriminatory language as inappropriate. Compared to 2011, nearly 20 percent fewer young people believe it’s okay for them and their friends to use discriminatory language around each other “because they know they don’t mean it” (45 percent vs. 54 percent). Additionally, nearly 80 percent of young people say it’s important that people who use slurs or discriminatory images online are held accountable for their actions.

The MTV and Associated Press-NORC Center study results released today are part of MTV’s “A THIN LINE” campaign, which has already empowered more than 1.5 million young people to take action to stop the spread of digital abuse. This is the second wave of information released as part of this study. Insights from the first wave can be found here.

Detailed findings from the second wave of the October 2013 study include:
I. Discriminatory Words and “Why”
A number of young people encounter misogynistic and homophobic words or phrases on the Internet and via text message:

  • Six in 10 young people say they sometimes or often see people using the word “bitch,” online or in text messages against other people, nearly 50 percent say they sometimes or often see people using the word “slut,” and nearly 45 percent say they see people using the word “whore.”
  • The percentage of young people who see others using homophobic words or phrases has declined significantly since 2011, however many phrases are still often seen.
  • “That’s so gay” remains a common phrase on the Internet and in text message, with just over half (52 percent) of young people reporting that they encounter the phrase, down 20 percent from 2011 (65 percent).
  • Just over 40 percent of young people say they sometimes or often see people using the word “fag” against other people, also a nearly 20 percent decline since 2011 (43 percent vs. 53 percent)
  • Among the reasons young people cite for why people use discriminatory language online or in text messages, more than half (53 percent) say those who use it are “trying to be funny,” and 45 percent say “they think it’s ‘cool’ to use that language.”

II. Where it’s Happening
Exposure to discriminatory language and images varies by social networking site.

  • A majority of users on YouTube, online gaming communities, and Facebook report encountering discriminatory words or images (56 percent, 54 percent, and 53 percent, respectively).
  • Nearly half (49 percent) of young people who use Twitter say they sometimes or often encounter discriminatory language or images when using the platform.
  • Around four in 10 who use Tumblr (43 percent), Vine (42 percent), Reddit (42 percent), and Instagram (37 percent) say they encounter discriminatory words or images.

III. Online vs. In-Person, and Intervening
The survey reinforced that people can be emboldened to type things they’d never say, as a large majority (73 percent) of respondents say people are more likely to use discriminatory language online or in text messages than in face-to-face conversations. This is on par with the 2011 findings (71 percent).
When it comes to intervening:

  • Less than half (44 percent) of all young people say they would intervene if they witnessed someone using discriminatory language or images on social media. This marks a nearly 15 percent decline from those who said they would intervene in 2011 (51 percent).
  • Nearly 6 in 10 say they would be somewhat or very likely to ask someone to stop if they saw someone using discriminatory language in person.
  • A large majority (86 percent) who wouldn’t intervene online or in person state that it’s because they wouldn’t feel comfortable doing so. Less than 15 percent say it’s because they don’t see anything wrong with this behavior.

To access the full MTV/AP-NORC research findings from 2013, 2011 and 2009, please go to Additional information, including The Associated Press’ stories based on the survey results
and the survey’s complete topline findings, can be found on the AP-NORC Center’s website at

Launched in 2009, MTV’s “A THIN LINE” campaign empowers America’s youth to identify, respond to, and stop the spread of digital abuse, which includes all forms of digital bullying, dating abuse and discrimination. MTV is addressing these issues through thought-provoking PSAs, integration into MTV's top-rated shows, innovative online and mobile tools, and curricula. For more information on MTV’s “A THIN LINE” please head to

This survey was conducted by GfK using the Web-enabled KnowledgePanel®, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Initially, participants are chosen scientifically by a random selection of telephone numbers and residential addresses. Persons in selected households are then invited by telephone or by mail to participate in the Web-enabled KnowledgePanel®. For those who agree to participate, but do not already have Internet access, GfK provides at no cost a laptop and ISP connection. People who already have computers and Internet service are permitted to participate using their own equipment. Panelists then receive unique log-in information for accessing surveys online, and they are sent emails throughout each month inviting them to participate in the research.

Interviews were conducted in English between September 27 and October 7, 2013 with 1,297 young people ages 14-24 (489 people ages 14-17; 808 people ages 18-24). A total of 4,321 panel members were randomly drawn from GfK’s KnowledgePanel®. 1,297 (excluding breakoffs) responded to the invitation, yielding a final stage completion rate of 30.0 percent. The recruitment rate for this study, reported by GfK, was 13.2 percent and the profile rate was 66.7 percent, for a cumulative response rate of 2.6 percent. The overall margin of error is +/- 3.7 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

Once the sample has been selected and fielded, and all the study data are collected and made final, a post-stratification process is used to adjust for any survey non-response as well as any non-coverage or under- and oversampling resulting from the study-specific sample design. Post stratification variables included, age, sex, education, race, and metropolitan status using the August 2013 Current Population Survey. The weighted data, which thus reflect the U.S. population of
14-24 year-olds, were used for all analyses.

Once GfK collected the data, the AP-NORC Center conducted the analysis along with MTV’s Insights and Innovation department. All analyses were conducted using STATA (version 13), which allows for adjustment of standard errors for complex sample designs. All differences reported between subgroups of the U.S. population are at the 95 percent level of statistical significance, meaning that there is only a 5 percent (or less) probability that the observed differences could be attributed to chance variation in sampling. A comprehensive listing of all study questions, complete with tabulations of top-level results for each question, is available on the AP-NORC Center website:

The study design was a collaborative effort between MTV and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Funding for the study was provided by MTV.


About NORC at the University of Chicago

NORC at the University of Chicago conducts research and analysis that decision-makers trust. As a nonpartisan research organization and a pioneer in measuring and understanding the world, we have studied almost every aspect of the human experience and every major news event for more than eight decades. Today, we partner with government, corporate, and nonprofit clients around the world to provide the objectivity and expertise necessary to inform the critical decisions facing society.

Contact: For more information, please contact Eric Young at NORC at or (703) 217-6814 (cell).

About The Associated Press
AP is the essential global news network, delivering fast, unbiased news from every corner of the world to all media platforms and formats. Founded in 1846, AP today is the most trusted source of independent news and information. On any given day, more than half the world’s population sees news from AP.

About MTV
MTV is the world’s premier youth entertainment brand. With a global reach of more than a half-billion households, MTV is the cultural home of the millennial generation, music fans and artists, and a pioneer in creating innovative programming for young people. MTV reflects and creates pop culture with its Emmy®, Grammy® and Peabody® award-winning content built around compelling storytelling, music discovery and activism across TV, online and mobile. MTV’s sibling networks MTV2 and mtvU each deliver unparalleled customized content for young males, music fans and college students, and its online hub is the leading destination for music, news and pop culture. MTV is part of MTV Networks, a unit of Viacom (NYSE: VIA, VIA.B), one of the world’s leading creators of programming and content across all media platforms. For more information, go to

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Janice Gatti / 212-846-8852 /
The AP -NORC Center for Public Affairs Research
Eric Young / 703-217-6814 /
The Associated Press
Paul Colford /