More than half of middle-class South Africa think it’s okay to buy fake branded clothing — and almost as many keep quiet when undercharged for a meal.
A new study, which looks at how South Africans deal with everyday moral decisions, has exposed shocking attitudes towards right and wrong. Nearly 40% of a sample of about 2000 surveyed in the country’s major cities admitted that they would:
- Take R20 lying around at work;
- Lie to stay out of trouble;
- Give an official a gift to get them to make the right decision; and
- Pretend to be stuck in traffic when running late.
The study by market research specialists TNS Research Surveys suggests that young, single and poorer people tend to be more dodgy than those older, married, widowed or living with a partner. High-income earners were less dodgy than low-income earners.
“It is probable that the poor’s day-to-day priorities for survival are often able to outweigh more abstract moral considerations,” said the study’s author, Kathryn Robinson.
Her findings included a “dodgy barometer”, which measured the degree to which people engage in immoral or dodgy activities.
Those who hardly agreed with any of the questionnaire’s dodgy options were labelled “Goody Two Shoes”, while people who were a bit more easily tempted were called “Lucky Chancers”. People more tolerant of a wide range of dodgy behaviours were described as being “On the Brink” and those with a wide, but slightly varied, acceptance of dodgy behaviour were referred to as either “Solidly Dodgy” or “Seriously Dodgy”.
About 36% of South Africans are Goody Two Shoes, 30% Lucky Chancers, 18% On the Brink, and 16% either Solidly or Seriously Dodgy. The study reveals an unusual selective morality among South Africans; people think it’s more acceptable for an employee to “take home” sugar and tea from the workplace than for an unemployed person to “steal” food.
Said Robinson: “This contrast is really bizarre at face value. The word ‘steal’ is more overtly immoral than ‘taking home’. There is also the notion that a company can afford it.
The paper titled: Tangled Webs and Other Grey Areas: South Africans’ shifting attitudes to crime, ethics and morality showed responses were often swayed by the way a question was asked. People were happier giving a public official a “gift” rather than a “bribe” to swing a decision their way. And they preferred “victimless” crimes. More are happy to allow friends to copy their CDs and DVDs than they are about buying pirate ones.
The study showed that, while only 13% thought it okay for an unemployed person to steal food, close on 40% had no problem using fax and photocopy machines without permission; 21% were happy to pocket tea or coffee from work; and 20% thought it fine to take home company stationery.
“Higher than average proportions of the more dodgy people came from Gauteng’s East Rand, while higher than average proportions of the less dodgy were from Cape Town,” Robinson said. — firstname.lastname@example.org
How do YOU fare?
The ‘dodgy barometer’ demonstrates the degree to which people will engage in immoral or dodgy behaviour when making day-to-day decisions. The results of the 18- question survey showed a range of attitudes from ‘barely dodgy’ to ‘extremely dodgy’.
Goody Two Shoes
People in this group are nearly as pure as the driven snow. They’re pretty likely to mostly stick to the “straight and narrow”. However, their attitude to fake branded clothing shows they are not perfect.
This group is more likely to be 45 years or older, married and in a higher income bracket. It may be that socioeconomic stability makes it easier to avoid temptation. None keeps quiet if undercharged; 38% see no harm in buying fake branded clothing; and 10%-20% think it’s okay to give a public official a “gift”.
A bit more easily tempted. Not going to turn down a lucky break or bargain if it comes their way.
This group tends to show relatively low levels of agreement with dodgy behaviour but, if temptation literally lands in their lap, they are going to take it. 54% keep quiet if undercharged; 65% see no harm in buying fake branded clothing; and 21%-40% think it’s okay to give a public official a “gift”.
On the Brink
This group is named such because they demonstrate the point where one can be seen to be poised on “the slippery slope” — where the number of more dodgy attitudes or actions is likely to pick up momentum and people become increasingly accepting of more of the same. These people are pretty tolerant of a wide range of dodgy behaviours.
79% keep quiet when undercharged; 74% see no harm in buying fake branded clothing; and 41%-60% think it’s okay to give a public official a “gift”.
This group has wide acceptance of most dodgy behaviours. They are most differentiated by the fact that they still hold back a little on some of the items compared to the next group.
They are likely to be younger, single and unemployed. 83% keep quiet if undercharged; 84% see no harm in buying fake branded clothing; and 61%-80% think it’s okay to give a public official a “gift”.
There is very little these people won’t do if it will benefit them. Faced with any moral choice, the heuristic that seems to be employed is “what will get me something”. The vast majority agree with every single dodgy item asked.
They are likely to be younger, single and unemployed. 94% keep quiet when undercharged; 98% see no harm in buying fake branded clothing; and 80% think it’s okay to give a public official a “gift”. — Subashni Naidoo, The Times
How Dodgy Are You?: Test Your Morality Here.