Asked in a Pew Research Center survey to assess the moral dimensions of different behaviors, 43% of Americans took the same stern view reportedly espoused by George Washington, whose birthday is today: Lying is morally wrong, even if it is done to spare someone else’s feelings. In fact, willful departures from the truth are more widely judged immoral than are sex between unmarried adults or gambling — though lying is not as harshly judged as such behaviors as cheating on your income taxes, getting drunk, smoking marijuana or engaging in homosexual behavior (see chart). The activity that drew the most widespread moral disapproval, 88%, was “married people having an affair,” while the one that drew the least was “overeating” — although a sizable minority (32%) said that activity was morally wrong. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.