Seven in Ten Americans Think Others Lied on This Poll – but Fewer than One in Ten Admit to Doing So Themselves

    New York , N.Y. – July 30, 2014 – Perhaps it’s a lie told to your parents about how you so didn’t throw a party the weekend they went away. Could be you want that successful big brother or sister to think you’re earning more than you are. Or maybe you just can’t bring yourself to tell your best friend what you really think of his girlfriend. From white lies to whoppers, there are all sorts of, ahem, not entirely true things which inhabit everyday social interactions. But who are Americans most likely to lie to? And what lies are they most likely to tell?

    These are some of the results of The Harris Poll¨ of 2,097 adults surveyed online between July 17 and 21, 2014.

    Who are we lying to?

    Everyone from our mom to our doctor could easily be on the receiving end of an untruth or two in an average week. The survey first asked which, from a list of topics, respondents had lied about to each of a selection of people. Overall, the highest percentages of Americans have lied about at least one thing to a parent (43%) or a significant other (41%). The lowest percentage (32%) have lied to a sibling or siblings – though a third still confirm doing so – and in between fall Americans’ likelihood to have lied to a doctor (38%) or a best friend (36%). But what lies are Americans telling to whom?

    The same two topics top the lists of lies told to parents, spouses/significant others and siblings – spending/purchases (15%, 21% and 9%, respectively) and sexual experience (14%, 14% and 7%, respectively).

    • Other top subjects Americans lie to their parents about include alcohol and illegal substance use (12% each), physical health (11%) and cigarette use (10%).
    • As for lies told to spouses or significant others, other top fibs beyond the one and two spots involve eating habits (12%), physical health (10%), alcohol use (8%) and exercise habits (also 8%).
    • Among siblings, income/salary (7%) rounds out the top subjects of deception.

    Sexual experience is the top subject Americans lie to their best friends about (12%), followed by income/salary (8%), political opinions (also 8%) and religious beliefs (7%).

    At the doctor’s office, exercise (15%) and eating habits (14%) are the most commonly fibbed-about topics, followed by physical health (10%).

    Men are more likely than women to have lied about, well, most of these things – to most of these people. The sole reversal this trend is in lying to best friends about eating habits – here women (8%, vs. 5% of men) are the more likely culprits.

    Looking at Americans by age, there’s little difference when it comes to likelihood to have lied to a spouse or significant other. However, 18-34 year olds are quickest by far to lie to parents (61%), best friends (47%), doctors (also 47%) and siblings (42%).

    The Honesty Gap

    Are there things you can share with some of your closest friends and family, but not with others within that same circle? You’re not alone. Americans were presented with pairs of figures in their lives and asked whether they agree that there are things they can be honest about with one of them but not the other – your mother but not your father, for example – and vice versa. The biggest honesty gap can be found between those who can be honest about some things with their spouse or significant other, but not their family (50%). Thirty-one percent (31%) say there are things they can be honest with their family about but not their spouse of significant other. Women are more likely than men to say there are things they can be honest with their main squeeze about but not their family (54% and 47%, respectively).

    • Forty-nine percent (49%) of Americans say there are things they can be honest with a sibling about but not with a parent, while 35% say the inverse.
    • Four in ten (40%) have things they can be honest about with mom but not dad; 29% say the reverse.
      • Maybe it’s a guy thing – men are more likely to say there are things they can be honest with their father about but not their mother (34% men vs. 25% women).
    • It’s a closer call between spouses/significant others and best friends, with 48% saying there are things they can be honest about with their honey but not their bestie; 42% say the opposite.

    Calling in Sick

    From overdoing it while out with friends last night to not wanting to run into a certain someone at a cocktail party, there are plenty of reasons Americans might want to get out of a variety of engagements. Of course, often the truth is not the most diplomatic approach. But what are the numbers?

    Nearly four in ten Americans (37%) say they’ve lied to get out of work, while a third (32%) have lied to get out of a social event, and roughly a quarter have lied to get out of school (26%) or a family gathering (23%). Fourteen percent (14%) have lied to get out of a date, one in ten to get out of a religious event (10%) or a doctor’s appointment (10%), and under one in ten say they’ve lied to get out of a speeding ticket (7%) or jury duty (6%).

    Women are more likely to have lied to get out of a social event (36% women vs. 29% men), and – sorry, guys -to get out of a date (17% women vs. 12% men).

    Lying about Lying

    Either more people think their fellow Americans are dishonest than they actually are, or fewer are willing to fess up to fibbing are actually doing so. Seven in ten Americans (69%) think others lied when taking this poll, but only 6% raise their hands (so to speak) when asked if they did so themselves.

    • Depending on your outlook, men (8%) are twice as likely as women (4%) either to have lied on the poll in the first place (shame on them!) or to have come clean about doing so (good for them!).
    • 18-34 year olds are roughly three times more likely than their elders to say they lied when taking the poll (12% 18-34 year olds, vs. 3% 35-44 year olds, 4% 45-64 year olds and 5% among those aged 65+).

    To view the full findings, or to see other recent Harris Polls, please visit the Harris Poll News Room.

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    TABLE 1a

    THINGS YOU HAVE LIED TO [INSERT] ABOUT

    Summary Grid

    Now we’d like to ask you about some of the lies commonly told in everyday situations. Thinking of the following people in your life, which of the following lies, if any, have you ever told to each? Please include intentional ‘lies of omission.’ Please select all that apply for each person.

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Spouse/Significant Other

    Parent

    Sibling(s)

    Best Friend

    Doctor

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Have lied about anything (NET)

    41

    43

    32

    36

    38

    Spending/Purchases

    21

    15

    9

    6

    2

    Sexual experience

    14

    14

    7

    12

    5

    Eating habits

    12

    9

    6

    6

    14

    Physical health

    10

    11

    6

    5

    10

    Alcohol use

    8

    12

    4

    5

    8

    Exercise habits

    8

    5

    5

    6

    15

    Income/Salary

    7

    8

    7

    8

    2

    Cigarette use

    7

    10

    4

    4

    8

    Job status/rank

    6

    6

    5

    6

    1

    Religious beliefs

    6

    6

    6

    7

    2

    Political opinions

    6

    6

    4

    8

    2

    Illegal substance use

    5

    12

    5

    5

    7

    Other

    6

    7

    6

    6

    4

    None

    34

    34

    43

    43

    41

    Not applicable

    25

    23

    25

    22

    21

    Note: Multiple responses allowed


    TABLE 1b

    THINGS YOU HAVE LIED TO [INSERT] ABOUT

    Summary Grid – by Gender

    Now we’d like to ask you about some of the lies commonly told in everyday situations. Thinking of the following people in your life, which of the following lies, if any, have you ever told to each? Please include intentional ‘lies of omission.’ Please select all that apply for each person.

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Spouse/Significant Other

    Parent

    Sibling(s)

    Best Friend

    Doctor

    Men

    Women

    Men

    Women

    Men

    Women

    Men

    Women

    Men

    Women

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Have lied about anything (NET)

    43

    38

    46

    41

    35

    28

    41

    31

    40

    36

    Spending/Purchases

    20

    22

    17

    14

    11

    7

    7

    5

    2

    2

    Sexual experience

    15

    12

    12

    16

    7

    8

    16

    8

    5

    5

    Eating habits

    13

    11

    10

    7

    7

    5

    5

    8

    15

    14

    Physical health

    13

    7

    11

    11

    7

    6

    7

    4

    11

    8

    Alcohol use

    11

    5

    14

    10

    5

    3

    7

    3

    9

    6

    Exercise habits

    9

    7

    6

    3

    7

    3

    8

    5

    17

    13

    Income/Salary

    9

    5

    10

    6

    9

    5

    10

    6

    2

    2

    Cigarette use

    8

    5

    10

    10

    4

    4

    4

    4

    8

    8

    Job status/rank

    9

    4

    8

    4

    7

    3

    8

    5

    2

    1

    Religious beliefs

    8

    4

    8

    4

    7

    5

    10

    5

    3

    1

    Political opinions

    7

    4

    7

    4

    6

    3

    10

    6

    3

    1

    Illegal substance use

    8

    3

    15

    8

    6

    3

    7

    4

    9

    5

    Other

    9

    4

    8

    6

    7

    5

    7

    5

    4

    3

    None

    31

    38

    32

    36

    39

    47

    38

    47

    39

    43

    Not applicable

    26

    24

    22

    24

    26

    25

    20

    23

    21

    20

    Note: Multiple responses allowed


    TABLE 1c

    HAVE LIED ABOUT ANYTHING TO [INSERT] ABOUT ANYTHING TOÉ

    Summary of Have lied about anything (NET) by Age

    Now we’d like to ask you about some of the lies commonly told in everyday situations. Thinking of the following people in your life, which of the following lies, if any, have you ever told to each? Please include intentional ‘lies of omission.’ Please select all that apply for each person.

    Base: U.S. Adults

    Total

    Age

    18-34

    35-44

    45-54

    55-64

    65+

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Spouse/Significant other

    41

    44

    43

    37

    40

    38

    Parent

    43

    61

    43

    39

    38

    25

    Sibling(s)

    32

    42

    27

    23

    30

    30

    Best friend

    36

    47

    33

    28

    32

    33

    Doctor

    38

    47

    37

    33

    33

    36

     

    TABLE 2

    EVENTS HAVE LIED TO GET OUT OF

    by Gender

    Which of the following, if any, have you ever told a lie to get out of (e.g., being sick, having an emergency)? Please select all that apply.

    Base: U.S. Adults

    Total

    Gender

    Age

    Male

    Female

    18-34

    35-44

    45-54

    55-64

    65+

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Work

    37

    36

    38

    35

    40

    40

    39

    32

    Social event

    32

    29

    36

    34

    32

    28

    30

    36

    School

    26

    26

    26

    35

    28

    25

    19

    20

    A family gathering

    23

    24

    22

    28

    24

    22

    19

    18

    A date

    14

    12

    17

    19

    16

    12

    10

    11

    Religious event

    10

    10

    9

    19

    7

    8

    6

    5

    Doctor/Medical appointment

    10

    9

    10

    13

    12

    8

    9

    5

    Speeding ticket

    7

    8

    6

    11

    7

    7

    5

    3

    Jury duty

    5

    6

    5

    6

    8

    6

    4

    4

    Other

    5

    5

    4

    5

    7

    3

    5

    3

    None

    31

    32

    30

    22

    33

    33

    36

    37

    Note: Multiple responses allowed


    TABLE 3a

    LYING DYNAMICS

    Summary Grid

    How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: U.S. Adults

     

    Agree (NET)

    Strongly agree

    Somewhat agree

    Disagree (NET)

    Somewhat disagree

    Strongly disagree

    Not applicable

    There are things I can/could be honest with my mother about but not my father.

    %

    40

    18

    22

    27

    10

    17

    33

    There are things I can/could be honest with my father about but not my mother.

    %

    29

    10

    19

    36

    15

    21

    34

    There are things I can/could be honest with my parents about but not a sibling.

    %

    35

    13

    23

    33

    15

    18

    32

    There are things I can/could be honest with a sibling about but not my parents.

    %

    49

    21

    28

    22

    9

    13

    28

    There are things I can/could be honest with my spouse/significant other about but not my family.

    %

    50

    27

    23

    23

    10

    13

    27

    There are things I can/could be honest with my family about but not my spouse/ significant other.

    %

    31

    12

    19

    42

    17

    25

    27

    There are things I can/could be honest with my spouse/significant other about but not my best friend.

    %

    48

    23

    25

    25

    11

    14

    27

    There are things I can/could be honest with my best friend about but not my spouse/significant other.

    %

    42

    16

    25

    33

    12

    21

    25

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 3b

    LYING DYNAMICS – MOTHER vs. FATHER

    Summary of Agree (NET) Responses by Gender & Age

    How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: U.S. Adults

    Total

    Gender

    Age

    Male

    Female

    18-34

    35-44

    45-54

    55-64

    65+

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    There are things I can/could be honest with my mother about but not my father.

    40

    41

    39

    59

    44

    38

    28

    21

    There are things I can/could be honest with my father about but not my mother.

    29

    34

    25

    42

    34

    27

    19

    18

     

    TABLE 3c

    LYING DYNAMICS – PARENTS vs. SIBLING

    Summary of Agree (NET) and Disagree (NET) Responses by Gender

    How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: U.S. Adults

    Total

    Gender

    Age

    Male

    Female

    18-34

    35-44

    45-54

    55-64

    65+

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    There are things I can/could be honest with my parents about but not a sibling.

    35

    37

    33

    44

    46

    39

    28

    16

    There are things I can/could be honest with a sibling about but not my parents.

    49

    50

    49

    64

    52

    46

    46

    30

     

    TABLE 3d

    LYING DYNAMICS – SPOUSE/SIGNIFICANT OTHER vs. FAMILY

    Summary of Agree (NET) and Disagree (NET) Responses by Gender

    How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: U.S. Adults

    Total

    Gender

    Age

    Male

    Female

    18-34

    35-44

    45-54

    55-64

    65+

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    There are things I can/could be honest with my spouse/significant other about but not my family.

    50

    47

    54

    52

    50

    50

    51

    48

    There are things I can/could be honest with my family about but not my spouse/ significant other.

    31

    32

    30

    40

    32

    31

    27

    20

     

    TABLE 3e

    LYING DYNAMICS – SPOUSE/SIGNIFICANT OTHER vs. BEST FRIEND

    Summary of Agree (NET) and Disagree (NET) Responses by Gender

    How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?

    Base: U.S. Adults

    Total

    Gender

    Age

    Male

    Female

    18-34

    35-44

    45-54

    55-64

    65+

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    There are things I can/could be honest with my spouse/ significant other about but not my best friend.

    48

    48

    49

    52

    44

    48

    47

    49

    There are things I can/could be honest with my best friend about but not my spouse/significant other.

    42

    42

    41

    51

    44

    40

    37

    34


    TABLE 4

    THINK OTHERS WILL LIE WHEN RESPONDING TO THIS POLL

    by Gender & Whether lied when taking this poll

    Do you think others will lie when responding to this poll?

    Base: U.S. Adults

    Total

    Gender

    Age

    Lied when Taking This Poll

    Male

    Female

    18-34

    35-44

    45-54

    55-64

    65+

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Yes

    69

    70

    68

    72

    65

    68

    66

    71

    94

    67

    No

    31

    30

    32

    28

    35

    32

    34

    29

    6

    33

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    TABLE 5

    LIED WHEN RESPONDING TO THIS POLL

    by Gender & Whether believe others would lie when taking this poll

    Did you lie when responding to this poll?

    Base: U.S. Adults

    Total

    Gender

    Age

    Believed Others would Lie when Taking This Poll

    Male

    Female

    18-34

    35-44

    45-54

    55-64

    65+

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Yes

    6

    8

    4

    12

    3

    4

    4

    5

    8

    1

    No

    94

    92

    96

    88

    97

    96

    96

    95

    92

    99

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding

     

    Methodology

    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between July 17 and 21, 2014 among 2,097 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

    All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

    Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

    The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

    Product and brand names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.

    The Harris Poll¨ #76, July 30, 2014

    About Nielsen & The Harris Poll

    On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll. Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit www.nielsen.com.