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If surveys tell the truth, white lies are necessary evil

NEW YORK -- It can be hard to get people to face the truth sometimes. Especially about lying.

In a new Associated Press- Ipsos poll, over half of respondents said lying was never justified. Yet in the same poll, up to two-thirds said it was OK to lie in certain situations, such as protecting someone's feelings.

Apparently white lies are an acceptable, even necessary, part of many lives -- even though we dislike the idea of lying.

In the AP-Ipsos poll, 65 percent of those questioned said it was sometimes OK to lie to avoid hurting someone's feelings, even though 52 percent said lying, overall, was never justified.

Still, every lie has its cost, ethics columnist Randy Cohen says. One key cost is credibility: Once people find out you lied, you lose currency in their eyes.

In the poll of 1,000 adults taken June 23 to 27, four in 10 people said it was sometimes OK to exaggerate a story to make it more interesting, and about a third said it was OK to lie about your age. (In interviews, though, some specified that meant lying backward in time, not forward, as in trying to get past the drinking age.) The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

A third also said it was sometimes OK to lie about being sick to take a day off work. Very few would admit to thinking it was OK to lie on a resume, cheat on taxes, or lie to a spouse about an extramarital affair.

Among the groups more likely to say lying was sometimes OK: people ages 18 to 29, college graduates and those with higher household incomes.

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