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Viewing pornography and lying aren't exactly deadly sins, but Americans have labeled them the top two most deplorable behaviors a person can engage in. Yet despite the finger-pointing, American Demographics' latest study, on the topic of vices, finds that scores of Americans confess that they indulge or have indulged in a variety of so-called immoral behaviors.

Of the seven sins covered in our survey lying, drinking, gambling, gossiping, smoking, looking at pornography and swearing Americans most frequently engage in the act of swearing. Almost one-third (31 percent) of adults say they regularly use expletives, and 37 percent do so on occasion, according to the nationally representative online poll of 1,183 adults conducted exclusively for American Demographics by eNation, a service of Arlington Heights, Ill.-based market research firm Synovate (formerly Market Facts). A quarter of Americans report they swear very rarely, and 6 percent say they have never ever uttered a four-letter word. Not surprisingly, men and young adults are the most likely to need their mouths washed out: 42 percent of adults under age 35 admit that they swear regularly, compared with 33 percent of those ages 35 to 54 and 18 percent of those 55 and older. And 36 percent of men regularly cuss, compared with only 27 percent of women.

Drinking alcohol is another common vice, as nearly 1 in 4 adults (23 percent) say they imbibe regularly. As with swearing, gentlemen are more likely to swill: 29 percent of men say they regularly consume alcohol, compared with 17 percent of women. However, barhopping gets pricey, so it's no surprise that those whose annual household income is $50,000 or more tend to drink more often than those whose families get by on less than $50,000 a year (27 percent versus 18 percent). About 11 percent of adults say they have never touched the stuff.

Drinking establishments along with most other public places may be increasingly smoke-free, but plenty of Americans continue to puff away. Almost one-fourth (22 percent) of survey respondents say they smoke (tobacco) on a regular basis. Women and senior citizens are the most likely to say they have never taken a puff. Fully 62 percent of those age 65 and older, and more than half (54 percent) of women, say they have never smoked, compared with 48 percent of all adults.

Sure, women may not drink, smoke or swear as much as men, but there is one vice they engage in far more often than men gossiping. In fact, women are more than twice as likely as men to have loose lips: 13 percent of women admit to regularly taking part in gossip sessions, compared with 6 percent of men.

Of course, the juiciest gossip involves tales about sex and related matters; perhaps that's why so few adults, only 7 percent, are willing to admit that they regularly look at pornography or go see strippers. Granted, men are less shy about admitting it: 14 percent of them freely confess that they regularly look at pornography or go see strippers, and another 30 percent of men say they do so on occasion. By contrast, just 2 percent of women say they regularly view porn or watch strippers; 7 percent say they do so on occasion.

Gambling is nearly as popular a vice as porn, but it doesn't have the gender divide. Six percent of all adults say they regularly try their luck, and 29 percent do so on occasion. About one-fifth of Americans (19 percent) say they have never placed a bet.

Although 90 percent of us admit to having lied in the past, just 3 percent say we lie on a regular basis. Younger adults (under age 35) are the most likely to tell the occasional fib: 28 percent say they lie on occasion, compared with only 15 percent of adults age 55 and older. (Whether any respondents lied on our survey is another matter altogether.)

One sure sign that Americans perceive their vices as somehow wrong is the relatively large share who say they have tried to change their behavior. Of adults who smoke or have smoked, 74 percent say they have tried to cut back or stop. So have 69 percent of those who swear, 64 percent of liars and 61 percent of gossips. But most Americans who drink, view pornography or gamble don't plan to slow down anytime soon. Just 39 percent of drinkers, 37 percent of porn fans and 30 percent of gamblers say they've tried to curb their wicked ways. Let the good times roll!


E-mail jfetto@primediabusiness.com for more information.

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