Apparently, Americans think Twitter is a pretty civil network. Or at least, it’s not uncivil… and yes, there is a difference.

A recent poll suggests that Twitter is less uncivil than the mainstream media, Fox News, the music industry and professional sports. But Americans weren’t too sure about its actual level of civility, either, and rated it pretty low on the scale. So what gives? Is Twitter still such a big mystery to so many uninitiated?

The poll [PDF] was conducted by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate in partnership with KRC Research and asked 1,000 Americans to rank 25 major institutions in terms of their degree of incivility.

The most uncivil institution? Political campaigns, with a whopping 80% of respondents ranking them as uncivil. The most civil institution is apparently the conversation at your dinner table, which was rated as civil by 90% of respondents.

Only 38% of respondents said that Twitter was uncivil. Compare this to YouTube (58%) and social networks in general (49%), and it would appear as though people think rather highly of the 140-character social information network.

However, When you look at how many respondents went on to actually rate Twitter as civil, you see a different story. Only 14% would call it a civil network, while 35% think social networks in general have some degree of civility about them.

So what does this mean?

It’s possibly that Twitter is still – despite its increasing prominence on the nightly newscasts and in the lives of celebrities – not mainstream. Less than half of the 1000 people polled even bothered to answer the civility/incivility question when it came to Twitter. Three quarters could answer the question when asked about YouTube, and 84% when asked about social networks in general.

Twitter is likely still a dark horse to many people, which is why they couldn’t really say whether it is civil or uncivil. And that’s fair – after all, Twitter’s isn’t one thing. It’s all in who you follow, and nearly all of the other organizations rated by this poll have a Twitter presence of some sort.