Last week, Research Co. and Glacier Media began a deep dive into the relationship of Canadians with the truth.
This matter cannot be boiled down to a simple yes-or-no question. We have learned so far that three in four Canadians yearn for complete veracity, but more than half find it justifiable to lie in order to spare a person’s feelings.
This week, we are concentrating on specific topics and moments in which Canadians acknowledge stretching the truth. One in 20 Canadians (five per cent) readily admit having lied about two topics during the course of their lives: Where they were born and their academic or educational credentials.
When it comes to resumés, and the inevitable complexity that job interviews entail, Canadians are more likely to fib. We found that 10 per cent of Canadians acknowledge making stuff up when asked about their past job experience.
Romance can also play a role in how truthful we are. Across the country, 12 per cent of Canadians say they have lied about having a girlfriend or boyfriend, and six per cent have lied about having a wife or husband. The gender differences are negligible, and we did not want to know if the fabrication was made to push someone away or to bring them closer.
Slightly more Canadians (15 per cent) acknowledge having lied about where they live – a proportion that rises to 19 per cent in British Columbia and to 27 per cent among those aged 18 to 34.
A similar proportion of Canadians (16 per cent) have not been straightforward about the amount of time they have been in this world. Lying about age is more common among men (18 per cent) than women (14 per cent). British Columbia, the sportiest of all provinces, is significantly ahead of the national average on choosing to trim or enlarge time (22 per cent).
The topic Canadians admit lying the most about is wealth. More than one in five (21 per cent) say they have fibbed about how much money they make, including 29 per cent of those aged 18 to 34, and 26 per cent of both British Columbians and Albertans.
On a separate question, where we checked on the status of five “white lies” in Canada, more controversy ensued. One in five Canadians (20 per cent) admits that they failed to disclose the actual cost of something they purchased to their significant other. There is no gender gap on this question, so husbands and wives can be equally suspicious when pondering expenditures that are not their own.
Not wanting to talk to a person is understandable, but 21 per cent of Canadians have taken it to the next level by falsely claiming that their phone had no battery when someone attempted to contact them. Women (26 per cent) and those aged 18 to 34 (34 per cent) are more likely to blame technology whenever they need to buy some time.
Our phones can also help us lie in a unique way, with 22 per cent of Canadians admitting that they have sent a text message saying that they were “almost there” when they were going to be really late. Quebecers and Ontarians (25 per cent each) lead the way in using their phone to conceal their actual whereabouts.
How to ensure that a person does not seek us out is a conundrum that has been around for decades. Almost one in four Canadians (24 per cent) say they have given out a fake phone number or email address to a person they were not interested in talking to again. Unsurprisingly, the proportion of “false coordinate providers” rises to 29 per cent among women.
In any case, there is one “white lie” that soars above all others. Practically a third of Canadians (32 per cent) say they enjoyed a home-cooked meal when they really did not. There are only slight age fluctuations on this issue, but a significant shift in Atlantic Canada, where 40 per cent of residents will utter a “Yeah, it was great” while holding their breath and longing for coffee or the door.
The trends are clear when we look at how often Canadians lie on topics and circumstances, but there is a fundamental difference: Getting caught. Claiming that you graduated from a desirable school or live in a specific neighbourhood can be easily debunked in this day and age. The lies that have more severe consequences are not uttered as much.
It appears to be more comfortable for Canadians to withhold from saying that the food was terrible or clarifying to an individual that they have no chance of seeing them again. We may deal with the first challenge by casually suggesting a restaurant for the next gathering and sparing our host’s feelings. On the second one, the “white lie” will be as devastating as the truth when the phone call or email leads nowhere, eliminating explanation and engagement at the same time.
This is the second of three columns that explore Canadians' relationship with the truth, based on polling from Research Co. and Glacier Media. Read the first column next.
Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.
Results are based on an online study conducted from March 10-12 among 1,000 Canadian adults. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.