“The large majority of persons interviewed feel that marriage is a sacred institution and as such married people should not have extramarital affairs,” Anderson said of the poll commissioned by the Ecumenical Family Life Council, a pro-life group.
The poll, which sought to determine how Jamaicans feel about morality and other social behaviour issues, was conducted May 3-14 among 500 persons, aged 18 years and over, islandwide.
“The sample was representative of the national population and allows for reliable projections of the data to national,” said Anderson who pointed out that the margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 per cent at the 95 per cent confidence level.
Anderson also highlighted that the fieldwork was conducted prior to the heightening of tensions 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 who was wanted by the US Government for alleged 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 skirmishes, but was captured a month later and is now in the US awaiting trial.
According to Anderson, when his pollsters asked whether it was wrong for married people to have an affair, 63 per cent of respondents agreed completely, 10 per cent said they agreed somewhat, 20 per cent disagreed completely, four per cent disagreed somewhat, and one per cent said they were not sure.
The responses, Anderson said, “suggest that there is a common agreement within the society that such affairs should be frowned upon and certainly not encouraged”.
The strongest disagreement, he said, was expressed among females, persons in the 25-44 age group and among low-income wage earners.
Abortion a personal decision
In relation to abortion, Anderson said he found that 51 per cent of all persons interviewed strongly support the view that abortion is a decision that each individual should be left to make on their own and not have it legislated for them.
Eleven per cent gave lukewarm agreement to this notion, 27 per cent disagreed completely, eight per cent disagreed somewhat and three per cent said they were not sure.
Anderson said that the combined 35 per cent who oppose the view feel that “there are instances where the decision as to whether or not one should have an abortion ought not to be left to the individual”.
However, the survey did not go on to elaborate what situations might warrant this, said the pollster.
Anderson said that when his pollsters raised the issue of morality in relation to abortion, they found that three of every four respondents felt that having an abortion was morally wrong.
A total of 63 per cent completely agreed; 15 per cent showed weaker levels of support; 12 per cent disagreed completely; seven per cent disagreed somewhat; and three per cent were not sure.
Anderson said that the view that having an abortion was morally wrong was mainly held by females, persons in the 35-54 age group and by persons in the lower socio-economic group.
Strong opposition to homosexuality on moral grounds
On the long controversial issue of homosexuality, the poll found that 87 per cent of respondents feel strongly that homosexual behaviour is morally wrong.
“The strength of this response clearly indicates that this view is supported across all the sectors within the society,” said Anderson. “Despite this, eight per cent of all persons interviewed disagree totally with this view and see nothing morally wrong with this type of behaviour.”
Sex between older men and young girls
This issue, Anderson said, was being considered in a non-marital environment.
“Muted concerns have often been expressed in the society about what some consider to be a growing trend of older men engaging young girls, close to or below the age of consent, in sexual activity,” he said. “In some circles it is thought to be somewhat of conventional wisdom to have sexual relations with young girls as a means of preventing or curing certain diseases. But the society at large has looked at this scenario, most often without public comment.”
The poll found that the majority of persons interviewed feel that the behaviour is not acceptable. But public objection to it is not as strong as some might have expected it to be.
When the pollster asked whether sex between older men and young girls is okay, 52 per cent of respondents said it was definitely wrong, while another seven per cent shared that view but were not that strong in their condemnation.
“Women and older persons are the categories within the sample who most strongly feel this way, but all segments are agreed to some extent that this behaviour is wrong,” said Anderson.
“Against this, however, has to be posited the 36 per cent of all persons interviewed who really do not see a problem with this practice,” the pollster said, adding that 41 per cent of the men and 45 per cent of persons aged 35-44 do not feel there is anything wrong with this behaviour.