An online survey of 2021 people across the country was conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of The Special Olympic International World Games in partnership with Shriver Media from July 13-15, 2015. The findings were recently made public and suggest that attitudes about individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ID) is evolving in relation to the level of personal connection individuals have with people with ID.

The poll found 44% of those surveyed were not familiar with or had never heard of Intellectual Disability (ID).  Low familiarity with those who have ID is supportive of the concern that many with ID still live in isolation, according to the Shriver Report Snapshot of study findings.

About half of adults surveyed (56%) report knowing someone with ID and among millennials (age 18-34), that number increases significantly as 72% of young women and 61% of young men say they know someone with ID.

The poll showed over-all positive attitudes about employment for individuals with ID.

    • 9 in 10 (93%) agree that adults with ID should be encouraged to have jobs.
    • 4 in 5 (80%) believe they would be comfortable employing someone with ID.
    • 4 in 5 adults (83%) say they would be comfortable working with someone with ID.

The poll showed generally positive attitudes about education for individuals with ID, with some inconsistency. For example, more people expressed comfortable with the idea of having children with ID educated in the same classrooms as their child than generally expressed the belief that kids with ID should be in the same classes as other kids.

    • Nearly 9 in 10 (89%) say they would be comfortable having their child be in the same classroom as a child with ID.
    • 3 in 5 (61%) state that school-age children with ID should be educated in the same classrooms as other kids their age. (Although 39% say that children with ID should not be educated in classrooms with other children their age.)

Less positive, were some of the results of the survey as it concerned where individuals with ID should live, dating individuals with ID, and attitudes about the capabilities of individuals with ID:

    • More than half of adults (55%) say they would be uncomfortable having their child marry someone with ID;
    • Half of adults (50%) say they would be uncomfortable having their child date someone with ID;
    • 88% say they would be comfortable having a neighbor with ID who lives independently.
    • However, nearly 1 in 10 (8%)  believe that adults with ID should all be institutionalized.
    • 22% believe that adults with ID should not be allowed to vote in elections.
    • More than one-quarter (26%) believe that parents of children with ID should lower their expectations about their child’s potential for success.
    • More than 1 in 10 (13%) believe that a person with an ID should be denied an organ transplant if someone without an ID is also eligible.
    • 1 in 5 adults (20%) report that all or most US adults would not want to be involved with their child who has ID (terminate a pregnancy/give up the child for adoption).

Finally, while most people agree that the use of the “r” word is offensive (92% overall), use of the word is still viewed as “acceptable”  under certain situations:

    • Only 62% say it is offensive if a friend is called retard for doing something foolish;
    • Only 40% say it is offensive if an inanimate object is called retarded;
    • Only 44% say it is offensive when pointing the slur at themselves.

Source for the Article: Poll Finds Public Perception Varies on Intellectual Disabilities, by Michelle Diament, July 24, 2015, Disability Scoop; The Shriver Report Snapshot: Insight into Intellectual Disabilities in the 21st Century–Full Findings.