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

Americans most likely to have lied to a parent, spouse or significant other; least likely to have lied to a sibling

NEW YORK, July 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- 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?

Harris Poll Logo.

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

(To see the full results including data tables, click here)

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.

Want Harris Polls delivered direct to your inbox? Click here!

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.

Press Contact: 
Corporate Communications
The Harris Poll 
[email protected]

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SOURCE The Harris Poll

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