Nearly a fifth have cheated on a partner

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
March 05, 2010, 2:42 AM GMT+0

Nearly a fifth of the British public have cheated on a partner, and while most regret it, men are more likely to cheat ‘to get a thrill’ or ‘take revenge’ on a partner, a poll has shown. The interest surrounding John Terry’s infidelity and subsequent sacking pas England football captain prompted the Sun newspaper to enquire into the cheating history of the British public, with interesting results.

19% of people have cheated on a partner in the past, with men slightly more likely than women to do so. Having said that, it is rare for people to cheat more than once – of those who admitted a transgression, 37% claimed they had only strayed once, and 21% twice. But eight percent of men and five percent of women admitted to cheating an incredible 20 or more times.

Reasons for cheating

The largest minority, 47%, cited an unhappy marriage as the principle cause. But while 58% of women chose this as the reason behind their infidelity, only 35% of men cited this option. In fact, men were much more likely than women to cheat for less salubrious reasons, with 21% of men saying they would cheat to get a thrill, 12% because they were drunk, and 10% to take revenge on a partner. In contrast, the figures for women were four, seven and four percent respectively. The only reason for cheating that either sex could agree on was boredom – at eight percent apiece.

Men and women mostly do agree on what constitutes cheating, though. Perhaps unsurprisingly, between 83% and 92% of people agreed that ‘regular sex’, a ‘one night stand’ and ‘sex with a prostitute’ constituted cheating. But when it came to other acts, men once again registered a more lackadaisical attitude, with 45%, as opposed to 59% of women, seeing ‘kissing someone else’ as cheating.

Overall, women were more puritanical than men, although less so than could be expected. While women are often touted as being shocked by and uneasy at pornography, when asked about ‘looking at soft porn in secret’, only 15% had a problem with it (compared to seven percent of men). ‘Fantasising about someone else’ was less of an issue; while most people did not think this constituted cheating, 10% of women did, as did seven percent of men.

And what of John Terry?

Despite this relatively high incidence of infidelity among the British, people retain strong views in relation to others’ transgressions, specifically those of John Terry, which have dominated the media in recent weeks. While many (23%) admit to not knowing whether the former captain’s sacking will change the performance of the national team, on a more personal level, men and women agree that Terry’s wife, Toni Poole, should not forgive his behaviour. Both sexes agreed to the tune of 51% that his cheating was unforgiveable – only seven percent thought that Poole should take him back. And more than half agree that cheating on a spouse with another woman is worse than paying for sex with a prostitute (56% as opposed to 22%).

Despite the emergence of pictures of the couple looking happy in Dubai, and a less than exemplary national track record, it seems that the British public haven’t forgiven Terry for his transgressions just yet.

Related story - Those who think they know Cheryl...think she should leave

For full survey details and results, please click here