Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sex, Lies and EU Red Tape

The internal workings of the European Union (EU) are notoriously yawnsome matters. However, in a survey from 2008, CRRC aimed to give an overview of Georgians’ understanding of and attitudes to the EU - including some hot topics concerning orientations towards such activities as sex before marriage, infidelity, dishonesty, and tax-paying.

Respondents were asked whether a range of these controversial activities were either ‘never justified’, ‘sometimes justified’ or ‘always justified’. Breaking down responses according to respondents from households that reported having a member who had lived in the EU for three months or more since 1993, against those from households that had no such members uncovered an interesting trend.


For example, respondents were asked whether it was ever justified for a woman to have a sexual relationship before marriage. A full 80% of respondents who had no family member who had lived in the EU reported that this was ‘never justified’, whereas only 54% of those with a family member who had lived in the EU felt the same. In terms of whether this was ‘sometimes justified’ the figures stood at 13% and 28% respectively (see table below).



A similar trend was found for attitudes to childbirth outside wedlock, as well as extra-marital affairs for both women and men. Meanwhile, though hardly anyone felt homosexuality was ‘always justified’, 10% of those with a household member who had lived in the EU felt it was ‘sometimes justified’ against only 3% of those who had no such member (see table below).



Interestingly, the same trend in attitudes held concerning such negative phenomena as lying, tax-avoidance, using criminal authorities for dispute resolution, and purchasing stolen goods. For example, while 69% of those respondents from households with no family connection to the EU feel lying for personal benefit is ‘never justified,’ only 57% of those with EU-experienced household members think the same (see table below).



If it is true that people-to-people contact creates shifts in attitudes, then a family member who has lived in the EU might ‘import’ certain value orientations into some households creating the differences manifested in the survey.

Given this, the question remains: why should having contact with someone who has lived in the EU affect individual liberalism in attitudes towards sexual matters, yet apparently negatively affect responsible social attitudes towards honesty, tax-paying, and rule of law? Is the EU a force for moral disorientation?

In answer to this, we should note that the survey does not ask if the practices in question are morally good or bad. Instead, it asks whether there might be some situations where such practices are justified. Plausibly then, those with exposure to predominantly tolerant, liberal and more relativistic values in Europe might be expected to produce flexible responses in which controversial practices are not categorically rejected on the basis of absolute moral beliefs.

So finally, perhaps we might suppose that as Georgia increases people-to-people contact through educational programs, political cooperation and trade, Georgians could slowly move towards a philosophy of ‘live and let live’.

5 comments:

Chudexs said...


A fascinating paper.
I love reading your writing
I got a lot of input
thanks and encouragement to keep writing.

WOMblog said...

I would disagree with the analysis of the question posed in the article:
why should having contact with someone who has lived in the EU affect individual liberalism in attitudes towards sexual matters, yet apparently negatively affect responsible social attitudes towards honesty, tax-paying, and rule of law? Is the EU a force for moral disorientation?

I believe that living in the EU simply makes people more likely to tell the truth in questions related to politics (sexual questions are psychologically very different beasts).

Julie George said...

Some of these findings, particularly those on lying or homosexuality, do not seem to be outside the margin of error. That would thus constrain our abilities to draw conclusions broadly on these things.

Gavin Slade said...

Thanks for the comments. A quick response to Julie concerning the statistical relationships between the variables:

I tried to indicate a pattern in attitudes that emerges (with varying strengths and statistical significance scores) across a set of 12 questions concerning moral orientations when divided by households with or without family members having EU experience.

It is true that many of the differences between the two groups were not statistically significant, including in attitudes to lying and homosexuality. However, a clear pattern emerged when all of the questions were examined together. In eleven of the twelve questions, more than 80% of the weighted responses were either "never acceptable" or "sometimes acceptable", while each of the other possible responses accounted for less than 10%. In all eleven of those questions, the proportion of "never acceptable" answers was greater amongst respondents who did not have a family member who had lived in an EU country since 1993, and the proportion of "sometimes acceptable" answers was greater amongst those who did.

I felt the consistency of this pattern was interesting enough to write about though definitive conclusions should be avoided without further data, more confident p scores, and more complex data analysis.

Julie George said...

Gavin, thanks for the clarification! I agree that you did the right thing to include them! (More information is always better than less). Your rejoinder here adds to the transparency of your approach. I appreciate it.