Study shows 'decline in integrity'
Published 25/01/2012 | 09:28
British people are less honest than they were a decade ago, according to a new "integrity" study.
Research by academics at the University of Essex found that having an affair, drink driving, underage sex and lying are more acceptable now than they were in the year 2000. But people have become less tolerant towards those who commit benefits fraud.
The survey of more than 2,000 adults also revealed that younger people were much more likely to condone bad behaviour than older people. Women also have slightly more integrity to men, but social class and occupation did not have a significant effect on levels of honesty, according to the study.
Those who took part in the survey were asked to what extent a series of 10 activities were justified. These included avoiding paying for public transport, keeping money found in the street, throwing litter and lying.
Their answers were then converted into an "integrity score" and compared to answers given by people who took the same test in 2000.
A decade ago, 70% of people said having an affair was never justified, but this dropped to just 50% in 2011.
The proportion who said picking up money found in the street was never justified dropped from almost 40% a decade ago to less than 20%, while one in three condemned lying in their own interests.
However, the survey found that Britons are now less tolerant of benefit cheats, with 78% of people condemning the practice in 2000, compared to 85% in 2011.
Asked why young people are becoming more dishonest, Professor Paul Whiteley, the study's author and director of the Essex Centre for the Study of Integrity told BBC Breakfast: "We think it is because their role models are not very good - footballers who cheat on their wives, journalists who hack people's phones.
"Gradually people are tending to become more dishonest, they are more willing to tell lies, more willing to tolerate adultery. It's slow over time and going on in the background but pretty evidentially there."