Amphiphilic cationic polynorbornene derivatives, soluble in water, were prepared from modular norbornene monomers, with a wide range of molecular weights (M(n) = 1600-137 500 g/mol) and narrow polydispersities (PDI = 1.1-1.3). The antibacterial activity determined by growth inhibition assays and the hemolytic activity against human red blood cells were measured and compared to determine the selectivity of the polymers for bacterial over mammalian cells. The effects of monomer repeat unit hydrophobicity and polymer molecular weight on antibacterial and hemolytic activities were determined. The hydrophobicity of the repeat unit was observed to have dramatic effects on antibacterial and hemolytic activities. Lipid membrane disruption activities of the polymers was confirmed by measuring polymer-induced dye leakage from large unilamellar vesicles. By tuning the overall hydrophobicity of the polymer through random copolymerizations of modular norbornene derivatives, highly selective, nonhemolytic antibacterial activities were obtained. For appropriate monomer composition, selectivity against bacteria versus human red blood cells was determined to be over 100.