IS LYING NECESSARY TO SUCCESS? Do you agree or disagree with this statement: “In today’s society, one has to lie or cheat at least occasionally in order to succeed.”

This is a fundamental and revealing question on our surveys about personal ethics and integrity. Most interesting is the fact that the level of cynicism is closely related to age. In an online survey on integrity (with just under 16,000 responses) we found that 43% of the respondents 17 and under (there were 862 of them) believe lying is sometimes necessary; 35% of those 18-24 years old agreed, 21% of those 25-40 agreed but the percentage drops sharply after that – 12% of those 51-50 and only 10% of those over 50 think lying is necessary to success.

It turns out that your answer to this question really matters. The more cynical you are about the efficacy of honesty the more likely you are to justify dishonesty. In other words those who agree with the statement are 2-4 times more likely to cheat on exams, cheat on taxes, lie to a spouse or boss etc.

So, are things getting worse or is it that you have to live awhile to realize how unnecessary lying really is? Maybe it’s a little of both.

Where do you stand on the question and how would you explain the huge disparity based on age?