POLL: Americans Are Pretty Cool With Politicians Cheating On Their Spouses As Long As It's Not With A Prostitute

Business Insider

A new poll has found that marital infidelity is far from damning for a politician in the eyes of the public. 

Last night, former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) pulled off the comeback of his career, winning his old congressional seat in the South Carolina 1st district special election. 

Sanford — despite a long political career and abundant name recognition — had a lot working against him.

In 2010 it was discovered that the then-Governor was engaged in a long-standing affair with an Argentinian woman.

During the election, it eventually came out that Sanford had trespassed on his wife's property to watch the Super Bowl

Still, Sanford was able to overcome these scandals and win the election. As it turns out, it helps that most people don't consider infidelity a reason to drop support for a candidate.

We and our polling partner SurveyMonkey — whose Audience polling feature enjoyed outstanding success throughout the 2012 election — developed a poll that tried to figure out what depravities a highly effective politician  would have to do to make Americans stop supporting them.

The poll structure was simple. We mentioned certain crimes and moral lapses that a hypothetical "effective" congressional representative committed and asked them if they'd still support them.

The answers were surprising. For example, old-fashioned adultery isn't as politically damning as it once was. Only 28% of those polled said that would make them stop supporting the candidate:

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poll political scandals

SurveyMonkey Audience — Business Insider Poll

As for Sanford's other lapse — the trespassing — people didn't much care about that either:

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poll political scandals

SurveyMonkey Audience — Business Insider Poll

Looking into lapses far beyond those of the newly-elected representative from South Carolina, people were more likely to oppose a candidate engaged in an extramarital affair if the third party was more than two decades the politician's junior:

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poll political scandals

SurveyMonkey Audience — Business Insider Poll

However, if the politician paid for the encounters that's an entirely different story. Half of voters would drop support for politicians who are also johns:

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poll political scandals

SurveyMonkey Audience — Business Insider Poll

Not as much of an issue is if the politician was caught driving under the influence, as Sen. Mike Crapo was earlier this year:

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poll political scandals

SurveyMonkey Audience — Business Insider Poll

However, an act that 60 percent of voters find totally inexcusable is the use of an illegal drug:

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poll political scandals

SurveyMonkey Audience — Business Insider Poll

These two charts are perhaps the most interesting. As the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback could tell you, an excellent way to lose support from nearly all Americans is to abuse animals.

Strangely, 12% of those polled think that is not a completely damning offense. 

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poll political scandals

SurveyMonkey Audience — Business Insider Poll

 

However, there is one more crime a politician can do that is considered worse than abusing animals. 

That crime would be embezzlement, which would cause the politician to lose 87% of supporters:

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poll political scandals

SurveyMonkey Audience — Business Insider Poll

 

What makes this even more interesting is the breakdown by political party. 

Republicans are more likely to drop support for a philanderer, drug user or trespasser.

Democrats are more likely to drop support for an animal abuser or embezzler.

Drunk drivers break down essentially evenly:

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poll political scandals

SurveyMonkey Audience — Business Insider Poll



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