Society would prefer to turn a blind eye to child abuse, according to half the people polled in a Red C survey of over 1,000 adults.
The poll also finds an overwhelming majority believe it is important that children have their opinions taken into account when significant decisions affecting them are being made.
The opinion poll was carried out by the Irish Section of Amnesty International for their report In Plain Sight.
The report seeks to draw lessons from the series of reports commissioned by successive governments on child abuse by clerics and others in the Catholic Church.
More than four out of five respondents told the Red C pollsters that individual members of society should have demanded that the Government do more to protect victims.
The same majority said individuals in their own right should have done more to halt abusers.
One out of three felt people were powerless to do so.
Amnesty International director Colm O'Gorman said family support services should be strengthened to prevent children who are at risk from being taken from their homes.
The reports finding echoes last week's observation by the Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, that some people are in two minds about putting children first when confronted with an allegation of abuse.