For the past three weeks, Research Co. and Glacier Media have reviewed what Canadians told us when we asked about the truth. For this final column, we focused on who we lie to and how much we trust others to tell the truth.
Two-thirds of Canadians who are parents (66 per cent) say they never lie to their children. It is difficult to pinpoint if this commitment to reality entails matters such as threats, consequences or mythology.
In any case, there is a significant gender gap. While three in four fathers (76 per cent) claim to never rely on falsehoods in conversations with their kids, the proportion falls to 57 per cent among mothers. In fact, more than a third of moms (35 per cent) admit lying to their sons or daughters “only some of the time.”
The numbers are similar when we look at partners. More than three in five Canadians in a relationship (64 per cent) say they never lie to their wife, husband, girlfriend or boyfriend. On this question, the gender gap narrows: 68 per cent of men say they never fib when chatting with their partner, compared to 60 per cent of women.
The propensity of Canadians to avoid reality increases when we look at a different family relationship. Across the country, only 52 per cent of Canadians say they never lie to their parents. Among those aged 18 to 34, the proportion falls to 36 per cent.
Meanwhile, majorities of Canadians who are employed say they never lie to their boss (62 per cent), their clients or customers (60 per cent) or their co-workers (57 per cent).
British Columbians are at the bottom of the scale when it comes to never lying to the person they report to (57 per cent), while only 49 per cent of Quebecers say they never lie to fellow employees.
When we asked Canadians to assess how often people in 16 different professions lie, the numbers raise doubts in some expected realms. More than a third of Canadians (35 per cent) think federal politicians lie “all of the time,” while 31 per cent feel the same way about provincial politicians and 28 per cent issue the same judgement for municipal politicians. Full confidence in the truth-telling ability of elected officials is painfully low: Only four per cent of Canadians believe politicians across all three levels “never” shy away from the truth.
At a time of intense criticism towards reporters and editors, the proportion of Canadians who assume that journalists lie “all of the time” is significantly lower: 15 per cent for those employed in television or online publications and 14 per cent for those who work in print and radio.
The results are similar when we assess the proportion of Canadians who think pollsters (13 per cent) and building contractors (14 per cent) lie “all of the time.” Skepticism climbs slightly for real estate agents and union leaders (16 per cent each).
Five other occupations yielded a higher number of detractors, albeit never coming close to the dismay reserved for politicians. Just under one in five Canadians think business executives (17 per cent) and lawyers (18 per cent) lie “all of the time,” while 20 per cent have no reason to believe that advertisers are ever truthful.
One of the key conclusions of the research is that truth is an impermanent concept when we deal with people we love, like our partners, children and parents – especially if the fabrication is designed to spare their feelings or save us from potential misfortune.
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.