British people have significantly less integrity than ten years ago, and it risks harming civic mindedness, new research claims.
Adultery, lying and underage sex have all become more acceptable, according to the findings published by Professor Paul Whiteley.
He blames the bad examples set by footballers cheating on their wives, the phone hacking scandal, and dodgy financial dealing.
And, he says, the implications could be profound for society. The findings show that people with high levels of integrity tend to have a strong sense of civic duty.
The Essex Centre for the Study of Integrity has been set up to analyse the issue. Professor Paul Whiteley is the centre’s director.
He commented: “If social capital is low and people are suspicious and don’t work together, those communities have worse health, worse educational performance, they are less happy and they are less economically developed and entrepreneurial. It really does have a profound effect.”
He continued, “the role models are not very good.
“If you think about it, you know, footballers that cheat on their wives; some journalists that back into phones; behaviour in the City, where people are selling financial instruments they think are no good but do not say so. These kind of things”.
Researchers polled over 2,000 adults in an online quiz, repeating the same questions a similar group completed in 2000.
Participants were asked to what extent a series of ten activities were justified, and their responses were then converted into an “integrity score” and compared to previous answers.
Professor Whiteley said: “If integrity continues to decline in the future, then it will be very difficult to mobilise volunteers to support the Big Society initiative.”
The Essex Centre for the Study of Integrity was set up in response to concerns that probity is under increasing pressure on every front – public, private and personal – and that the implications of this are profound.