Nr XVII (1991)

Percepcja dewiacji w społeczeństwie

Andrzej Siemaszko
Instytut Problematyki Przestępczości w Warszawie

Opublikowane 1991-08-01

Słowa kluczowe

  • percepcja dewiacji,
  • społeczeństwo,
  • badania ankietowe,
  • badania kryminologiczne,
  • perception of deviance,
  • society,
  • surveys,
  • criminological research

Jak cytować

Siemaszko, A. (1991). Percepcja dewiacji w społeczeństwie. Archiwum Kryminologii, (XVII), 117–197.


The main object of the study was to define the attitude of Polish society to forty-six types of behaviour controversial from the moral point of view and/or prohibited by law. Another aim was to determine which of the socio-demographic variables examined influence the different opinions about those types of behaviour.

Two pilot surveys preceded the study. They concerned two quota samples of 100 persons each and were aimed at finding out, among others, which of the alternative descriptions of the separate types of behaviour might constitute better indices. As a result, descriptions of several types of behaviour were rewritten, and some others formulated more intelligibly.

The study proper was conducted in November 1987; a national random sample of 2000 persons was examined. The respondents could choose one of the following seven answers: I do not condemn at all; I do not condemn; I rather do not condemn; it is difficult to say; I rather condemn; I condemn; I condemn utterly. Questions concerning all of the 46 types of behaviour included in the study could be answered the above seven ways. The analysis was based on arithmetic means of answers which ranged from 1 to 7 in value.

The following types of behaviour were the least condemned (the figures are arithmetic means; proportions of utter condemnations have been quoted in brackets): 1. becoming an unmarried mother – 2.65 (2.9 per cent); 2. leaving the country forever – 3.45 (5.7 per cent); 3. watching porno films – 3.76 (8.4 per cent); 4. living unwed – 3.87 (11.1 per cent); 5. unintentional homicide – 4.29 (12.7 per cent); 6. tourists’ petty trade abroad – 4.33 (11.8 per cent); 7. divorce – 4.42 (13.8 per cent); 8. criticising the political system in public – 4.46 (11.5 per cent); 9. addiction to tobacco – 4.48 (14.3 per cent); taking part in a strike – 4.55 (14.3 per cent). As shown by the results of the AID analysis, the best predictors of public opinion’s attitude to the above-mentioned ten types of behaviour are as follows: for becoming an unmarried mother – education; for emigration – age; for watching porno films – education; for fornication – religiousness; for unintentional homicide – the answers were not differentiated (homogeneity of opinions); for tourist’ petty trade – age; for divorce – religiousness; for criticising the system in public – education; for addiction to tobacco – age; for participation in strikes – education. Among the above ten types of behaviour that are least condemned, the most numerous group concerns the broadly interpreted sexual sphere which testifies to great transformations in sexual morals of Polish society. Also conspicuous is the presence of two types of behaviour from the sphere of politics among those least condemned. On the other hand, there are no criminal offences in this group.

The following types of behaviour proved to be the most condemned (they are arranged according to the rising means; proportions of utter condemnations in brackets): 37. addiction to alcohol – 6.41 (56.7 per cent); 38. espionage – 6.48 (62.0 per cent); 39. kidnapping an airplane – 6.55 (66.1 per cent); 40. drug addiction – 6.57 (64.7 per cent); 41. failure to help a person in mortal danger – 6.60 (66.5 per cent); 42. robbery 6.65 (71.0 per cent); 43. rape – 6.67 (72.4 per cent); 44. hooligan battery – 6.73 (75.6 per cent); 45. murder – 6.78 (81.0 per cent); father-daughter incest – 6.81 (83.3 per cent). The best predictors of differentiation of opinions were as follows: for alcoholism – sex; for espionage – marital status (the unmarried, that is the younger, condemned espionage less strongly) for air-plane kidnapping – place of residence; for drug addiction – the answers were not differentiated (homogeneous opinions); for failure to help – the answers were not differentiated (homogenous opinions); for robbery – education (condemnation growing with the level of education); for rape – place of residence (the rural population condemning it less strongly); for hooligan battery – the answers were not differentiated (homogeneous opinions); for murder – place of residence (peasants and inhabitants of small towns condemning it less strongly); for incest – education (condemnation growing with the level of education).

Of the above ten types of behaviour that were most condemned, eight are offences, including the most serious ones like rape, robbery and murder. The differences between the means of answers are much smaller here than in the case of the most tolerated types of behaviour. The opinions are also differentiated to a much smaller degree with respect to the independent variables examined. In three cases (drug addiction, hooligan battery and failure to help), the examined socio-demographic traits failed to differentiate opinions at all, which points to extremely unanimous condemnation of those acts.

An analysis of the list of the most condemned types of behaviour leads to the following conclusions: 1. the more condemned a given act, the smaller the differentiation of opinions; 2. Polish society is particularly intolerant to aggressive behaviour: the list contains as many as five aggressive acts; 3. the most condemned types of behaviour do not include acts such as e.g. theft of private and public property (ranks 31 and 29 respectively); prostitution (rank 25); homosexualism (rank 32; bribery (rank 26); failure to pay maintenance (rank 34); social parasitism (rank 23); speculation (rank 27); also none of political acts were condemned as much; 4. eight of the ten most condemned types of behaviour are offences; addictions are condemned to a comparable extent; 5. the differences between the mean answers concerning the separate types of most condemned behaviour are slight (ranging from 6.41 for alcoholism to 6.8 for incest).

Polish society is relatively tolerant to sexual behaviour. In the list of 46 examined types of behaviour arranged according to growing means of answers, becoming an unmarried mother ranks first, watching porno films – third, fornication – fourth, divorce – seventh, adultery – twenty-second, prostitution – twenly-fifth, and homosexualism – thirtysecond. In the case of the two latter types only, that is prostitution and homosexualism, the means of answers exceeded 6, while four of the seven types included in this group were among the most tolerated. The variable which has the greatest influence on the attitude to sexual behaviour is religiousness. The attitude to religious practices was the best predictor of differentiation of opinions in the case of fornication, adultery, and divorce, and appeared as a differentiating variable of a secondary importance in the case of watching porno films and prostitution: Education significantly modified the attitude to homosexualism, watching porno films, and becoming an unmarried mother. Sex, instead, most strongly differentiated the attitudes to prostitution, women condemning this type of behaviour more strongly than men. Against expectations, age was never the best predictor in relation to sexual behaviour. Nor could the typothesis be confirmed that the rural population condemns behaviour of that sphere more strongly than the urban one. Quite the contrary, the two groups appeared not to differ from each other in their opinions about sexual behaviour.

Also political acts are greatly tolerated by Polish society. Two of them can be found among the ten least condemned: criticising the system in public (rank 8), and participation in a strike (rank 10). Further, “underground” political activity ranked eleventh, participation in a street demonstration – fifteenth, and refusal to enter military service (which in Poland has a political context as a rule) – eighteenth. The attitude to political acts, however, is particularly differentiated according to the separate socio-demographic traits. Here, the best predictor is education: the higher its level, the greatest the tolerance. Education best differentiated the attitude to criticising the system in public, participation in a strike, and participation in a demonstration. The attitude to political opposition, instead, was best explained by material situation (tolerance increasing with the worsening of that situation). On the other hand, the opinion about refusal to enter military service depended mostly on marital status, single (that is, younger) respondents being considerably more tolerant in this respect. The following conclusions can be drawn from an analysis of the Polish public opinion’s attitude to political acts: 1. there was in this group the greatest dispersion of answers according to the separate socio-demographic traits; 2. the attitude to political acts is entirely independent of the level of religiousness; 3. the influence of Party membership on the differentiation of opinions proved much smaller than expected.

Polish society shows a low tolerance to behaviour related to alcohol: illicit distillation of liquor ranked twentieth, unlicensed sale of alcohol thirtieth, and alcoholism – thirty-seventh (that is, among the most strongly condemned types of behaviour). Sex is the variable which has the greatest influence on the attitude to behaviour related to alcohol. In all of the above three cases, women condemned behaviour related to alcohol much more strongly than men. The following conclusions can be drawn from the AID, analysis: 1. despite the generally low permissiveness of behaviour related to alcohol, the opinions of the separate subgroups of respondents are highly differentiated and range from very stnong condemnation to considerable tolerance; 2. the above very high differentiation of opinions testifies to behaviour related to alcohol being an important and controversial problem; 3. the influence of the place of residence on the attitude to this group of acts was smaller than expected (particularly astonishing is a lack of a greater tolerance of illicit distilling of liquor among the rural population).

Of the three addictions taken into account in the study, the least condemned one is smoking (rank 9; the best predictor: age). Alcoholism ranked thirty-seventh (the best predictor: sex), and drug addiction – fortieth (homogeneous opinions, no differentiation of answers). Despite the comparability of the examined addictions, the attitude to smoking is by far more tolerant which indicates that the respondents treated nicotine addiction differently than alcoholism and drug addiction.

The morally controversial types of behaviour included euthanasia (rank 13, the best predictor: religiousness); free riding (rank 17, the best predictor: age); suicide (rank 24, predictor: religiousness); social parasitism (rank 23, predictor: age); and denouncing others to authorities (rank 21, predictor: place of residence). Conclusions from the AID analysis are as follows: 1. religiousness most strongly influences the perception of euthanasia and suicide: e.g. in the latter case, a different scale of opinions corresponds with each of the separated levels of religiousness; 2. euthanasia meets with an astonishingly small condemnation (the term defined as “causing the death of an incurably ill person at his request”); 3. the respondents were unexpectedly unanimous in their very strong condemnation of denouncing, with a somewhat greater tolerance shown by the rural population only.

Corrupt practices included: using connections to settle a business (rank 12, the best predictor: age); accepting bribes (rank 26, predictor: age); deriving personal profit from one’s job (rank 28, predictor: age); membership of a coterie (rank 36, predictor: education). As follows from the AID, analysis, 1. the attitude to corrupt practices depends most strongly on age: younger respondents aged under 35 (that is, those brought up under the present rule) are much more tolerant to the above forms of corruption; 2. a higher level of education increases the tolerance to corrupt practices; Polish society’s opinions about corruption are relatively poorly differentiated.

Of criminal acts, eight were included in the group of the most condemned ones discussed above. Of the remaining offences, theft of private property ranked 31 (the best predictor: place of residence, condemnation is less strong among the rural population); theft of public property ranked 29 (predictor: place of residence, also in this case, condemnation is less strong among peasants); vandalism ranked 35 (predictor: place of residence, peasants and inhabitants of small towns condemned it less strongly); helping a person wanted by the police ranked 19 (homogeneous opinions); speculation ranked 27 (predictor: are, respondents under 19 were more tolerant).

The findings lead to the following conclusions. Firstly, Polish society is astonishingly unanimous in its opinions about the types of behaviour included in the study. In several cases, uniformity of opinions was so high as to make any divisions in respect of the force of condemnation impossible. Thus a high axiological homogeneity of Polish society has been found. Secondly, the independent variables examined explained but a very small part of variances. Therefore, socio-demographic traits have a low predictive value as regards the differentiation of opinions about deviant behaviour. Consequently, an inclination to condemn the examined types of behaviour results not from the basic individual characteristics (such as sex, age, education) but from some other factors. Thirdly, the best predictor of differentiation of opinions was education (in 10 cases), followed by age and place of residence (in 9 cases each). The influence of religiousness on differentiation of opinions was smaller than expected (5 cases), and the relationship between sex and the opinions about the examined types of behaviour proved astonishingly distant (4 cases). The remaining independent variables (i.e. background, Party membership, material situation, activities in social organizations) failed to influence significantly the differentiation of opinions. Fourthly, Polish society is highly rigoristic. As many as 29 of the 46 types of behaviour examined were condemned most strongly by at least 25 per cent of respondents. Thus the Poles have an exceptionally low global degree of tolerance to controversial or negative phenomena and types of behaviour.


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