This is a summary of the poll that I wrote for "The Other Side," the Pitzer Student magazine.
"Sex and Alcohol: How the British compare to Americans"
While on a train to Edinburgh, Lindsay Thorson and I were discussing what we could do for an external studies project that we had do to regarding cultural differences between the USA and Wales. We decided that we would conduct a poll among British students regarding their personal experiences with sex and drinking at University. We discussed this at length (you can't really over-discuss sex and alcohol) and eventually came up with a slightly different plan: we would poll students at British and American universities and ask them about their attitudes towards drinking and sexuality and then compare the results by country. Using some ties to the polling firm of Penn, Schoen, and Berland (whose clients include the heads of several Latin American and African countries, the DNC, the DLC, Microsoft, and President Bill Clinton) we put together a poll, got people to fill it out, and then compiled the results.
The average age of respondents in both countries was 20, and they were in their second-year in college. In Britain, the students polled were from Cardiff University and Swansea University; in America, students came from Santa Cruz, Davis, Scripps, Pitzer, Allegheny, Manhattanville, and BYU, in an attempt to reflect the wide variety that exists in our great nation. Students in both countries were polled between November 15th and 29th. This is not meant to be completely reflective of ALL British and American students, so don't get your cockles up. Field research was not done exclusively Temple-of-Doom style, but by handing out questionnaires.
We started out by asking people about their personal nocturnal habits and alcohol consumption, figuring that it wouldn't be too contentious an issue. The average number of nights per week that students went out was 3 for both the Brits and the Americans. When painting the town red, Americans consumed an average of 2.8 drinks; Brits consumed 4.5. When in, Brits downed about 2.19 drinks per night, whereas Americans had 2.02 drinks.
When dealing with sex and relationships, we thought that we should be more impersonal; thus, we asked students about their attitudes about other people having sex. We decided to focus on attitudes towards one-night stands. 66% of Americans said that they would not look down on anyone that had a one-night stand since coming to college; 71% of Brits responded in the same way, showing Americans to be slightly more conservative and Puritanical (or innocent and pure, if you like). Next we asked about people that engaged in 5 one-night stands since coming to University. 47% of Brits said that it was acceptable for a man to have 5 one-night stands since the beginning of the school year; however, only 29% said that it was acceptable for a woman to have had 5 one-night stands in the same period, a difference of 18%. The Americans that were polled were much less forgiving; only 8% said that it was acceptable for a member of either sex to have had 5 one-night stands since coming to University, 92% saying that they would lose respect for such people. When it came to actually knowing people that had engaged in casual sex, 71% of Brits said that they knew someone that had had a one-night stand, and of these, 91% said that the person they knew had had more than one one-night stand. More Americans (83%) knew someone that had a one-night stand since starting University, but only 80% said that the people they were thinking of had had more than one.
We didn't focus only on sex and drinking, however; we also got mushy and asked about people that had actually started something serious. 64% of British students and 83% of American students knew someone that had started a monogamous relationship since starting University this year.
We also asked about for some hard numbers concerning people kissed and slept with. Brits believed that the average number of people kissed since starting school this year was 5, and the average number of people slept with was 2; Americans believed that the average number of people kissed was 3, but that the number of people that the average student had slept with was 2 - ergo, 66% of the people kissed were also slept with (assuming that sex included kissing).