The poll also found strong support for the distribution of condoms in schools, while more than half of respondents believe that a breakdown in family life and morality is at the root of teenage pregnancy and the increasing number of missing children.
Photo - Students learn about condom use at a recent Wellness Expo in Kingston. A poll conducted by Don Anderson has found that 64 per cent of respondents believe that condoms should be distributed in schools.
The survey, conducted by Don Anderson and his team from Market Research Services Limited for the Ecumenical Family Life Council, polled 500 persons, aged 18 years and over islandwide, between May 3 and 14, 2010.
The poll, Anderson said, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 per cent at the 95 per cent confidence level.
Anderson, in his comments on the findings, said "it should be carefully noted that the fieldwork was conducted prior to the heightening of the tension leading up to the eventual problems in Tivoli Gardens and the imposition of the State of Emergency".
His reference was to the security forces' operation in Tivoli to arrest Christopher 'Dudus' Coke whom the US Government has accused of drug and arms trafficking. The operation resulted in 73 people, among them a soldier, being shot dead as gunmen loyal to Coke engaged police and soldiers in an effort to prevent his arrest.
Coke escaped during the fighting, but was captured a month later and is now in the US awaiting trial.
According to the pollster, 63 per cent of respondents overall agreed with the view that young persons should not be having sex until they are married.
"This supports the biblical view that to have sex before marriage is tantamount to fornication," said Anderson.
"It should be noted, however, that of these 63 per cent, 47 per cent -- less than half of all persons interviewed — strongly support this notion," said Anderson. "It does suggest that whilst this is the general view, there is a significant body of persons who do not subscribe to this view."
He said that over 31 per cent opposed the view, an indication that there is a strong voice for sex before marriage.
"Support for abstaining from sex until marriage is highest amongst females, with over 73 per cent echoing this view," Anderson said, adding that "older persons are numbered amongst the stronger supporters of this position. Perhaps predictably, men and younger persons are the key groups that are opposed to the idea of abstaining from sex until after marriage."
Distribution of condoms in schools
The jury is still out on this issue, Anderson said, as there is one school of thought that condoms should be made available to young persons in schools, since they have a propensity of at least an inclination to have sex.
According to the pollster, supporters of this approach feel it would minimise unwanted pregnancies as well as the occurrence of sexually transmitted diseases, while opponents feel that to make condoms available in schools would empower young persons to have sex more often or to begin to do so.
The survey, he said, points to a majority support for the distribution of condoms in schools.
"A total of 64 per cent of all persons interviewed feel this should be adopted as a policy, 50 per cent of this number being strongly in support. Another 14 per cent, whilst in favour, are not unequivocally so. Perhaps understandably, young persons 18-24 are strongest supporters of this view with close to 80 per cent of them advocating distribution within the school system. By extension, strongest opponents are older persons 55-64," said Anderson.
He added that 34 per cent of all persons interviewed disagree with the notion of providing condoms to children in schools, with over 57 per cent of the older age groups strongly opposed to doing so.
In relation to teenage pregnancy, Anderson said that the majority of persons interviewed felt that the increasing number of teenage pregnancies is largely as a result of a breakdown of family life and morality.
"This is a view shared by over 80 per cent of the persons interviewed, with close to 60 per cent strongly agreeing with this view," said the pollster. "Against this background, just 15 per cent do not share this view and feel that the high incidence of teenage pregnancy should be blamed on other factors."
Anderson also said that the majority of persons interviewed -- 74 per cent -- believe that the breakdown in family life "has yet another deleterious effect on children, resulting in them leaving home or being lured away from home".
Incest more prevalent
Added Anderson: "One of the resultant fallout from what they regard as breakdown in family life and morality is a growing incidence of incest."
Of the persons surveyed, 78 per cent agree that incest is now more prevalent in the society these days, while 12 per cent do not agree with this position.
Early exposure to church a strong positive
Anderson said that against the background of the problems which a perceived breakdown in family life and morality bring, 91 per cent of the persons interviewed expressed the view that one of the strong support systems that will have to be relied on is the church.
"The data strongly advocates then, that parents should seek to expose their children to church from an early age," said the pollster.
SUNDAY: How Jamaicans feel about marriage, abortion, homosexuality, and sex between older men and young girls.