Articles and Analysis


Infidelity & Tolerance

Topics: ABC , CNN , Gallup , NBC News , USAToday Gallup , Zogby

A common pattern in polling is to see greater tolerance for issues in one's personal sphere than outside it. Voters like their own Member of Congress more than they like "Congress." Voters are more open to public spending helping their own community than to help others'. Call it, perhaps, a reverse NIMBY phenomenon. Interestingly, we see the same pattern when it comes to infidelity and sex scandals; Americans seem more tolerant personally than they are of elected officials.

At some level I'm hesitant to discuss this topic. Does it feed into our baser instincts? Are sex scandals even relevant? However you answer those questions, though, the fact remains that sex scandals are very relevant in the campaigns in which they occur, and show no sign of abating. We might as well try to understand voters' views.

Initially, Americans attitudes toward infidelity are quite dramatic. According to Gallup, nearly all Americans (91%) feel "married men and women having an affair" is morally wrong. This makes it less acceptable than cloning humans (86% morally wrong), and as unacceptable as polygamy (90%).

But ultimately, Americans turn out to be more forgiving. For one, according to ABC News, more report their own infidelity (16%) than I'm assuming would admit to human cloning or polygamy. Further, according to USA Today/Gallup reports of "knowing anyone" who has been unfaithful are much higher (54%).

Perceived pervasiveness could lead to potential forgiveness. Over a third (33%) say they would "probably" or "definitely" forgive their spouse's infidelity. A similar number (36%) suspect that if they were married to a philandering political spouse, they would "stand beside" the spouse during a press conference announcing the infidelity. In fact, far from a consistent pattern, only 55% of married adults say they would leave their spouse if they found out about an affair.

Politicians implicated in recent sex scandals, however, are generally not let off the hook so easily:

  • A Marist Poll pre-resignation (so, admittedly, an overnight poll) showed 70% of New York voters wanted to see Eliot Spitzer resign.
  • In September 2007, a CNN/Opinion Research poll also showed majority of Americans (52%) felt Dennis Hastert should have resigned because of his handling of the Mark Foley incident.
  • In a NBC News/Zogby poll, More than eight in ten (84%) were dissatisfied with Gary Condit's explanations about his relationship with Chandra Levy, and 81% said they wouldn't re-elect him if he was their Congressman.

Only former Governor Jim McGreevey fared a bit better than his ignominious peers. Just half (48%) of New Jersey voters said it was necessary for him to resign, compared to 42% who wanted him to stay.

Admittedly, most of these scandals, to varying degrees, involved a bit more than adultery. And the hypocrisy of private behavior differing from public stances also affects voters' attitudes. But we still seem to see reverse NIMBY writ large; people tend to be more judgmental of others than of themselves. Politicians should beware what might be one of the oldest political biases.



margie -
the polling is both accurate and inaccurate. accurate from the standpoint of middle aged to younger voters transferring anger to a figurehead like hillary clinton as the cuckolded woman.

inaccurate when it comes to older voters who just dont give a darn, even those belonging to your high percentage group of moral rectitude christians.

you might want to break those numbers down better.



Of course.

If all someone knows of another is that they were unfaithful to their spouse, or that they need public funds, then they will take a stronger negative stance than if they could see the whole picture.

Someone can be a good community servant with a wandering eye. Personally knowing/going to church/school/soccer with people who have needs for a social safety net, or extra school services, puts the situation in more balance.

Kind of like people who call themselves pro-lifers but then quietly send their teenage daughter to "that place" when she goes a little too far with the football star from the wrong side of the tracks, or when their darling son gets mixed up with the "town tramp."



speaking of infidelity: richardson will do anything to be vice president. is this not painfully obvious and sycophantic down to the changing of his image to look more hip and cool with a beard? ugh.

omg: my vote has now morphed again: first it was biden,then obama, then huckabee, then clinton, then mccain, then clinton, and now...i'm waiting for the convention to split off the contingents into a third party or else i have to vote for bill shatner as the Big Head because i think he would at least be entertaining without a smarmy motive.

my husband once had a class in presidential leadership and wrote this paper that anyone running for president just by virtue of thinking they had the 'right stuff' meant they needed serious therapy. kinda true, this belief they can deliver us from evil. that's one of the things that freaks me out about obama plus i think he's a closet sexist, "you're likable enough hillary."

talk about infidelity this post is getting more and more unfaithful to the theme of the poll. YET>>>>>i'm beginning to lust for royalty or the accidental president. more of that later - when i figure out what that could entail other than assassinations, and airstrikes, and flying saucers.



good article on why Obama's speech (though it was good) missed the point





That article is so far off, I wonder if it was written by Rush Limbaugh. I'll just refute one point as I don't have time to refute ALL the garbage in that piece. I just love that all these neo-cons are so upset that Obama said "typical white person". They claim that McCain would be chastised if he said, "typical black person". One problem though, McCain is not black. However, Obama is black AND white. Or did you clowns not get that memo? Therefore he is able to say that, since he was raised by two white women and is white himself. I love how the media tries to make him THE black guy, and not bi-racial.

Here's a MUCH better take on the speech from a REAL news source:




actually, the REAL take on the speech is the
polarity between these two recent posts. this suggests that perhaps, not a lot of movement either way was affected.

if you like obama you like what he said, a well crafted as well as extremely crafty speech that i am certain was parsed up and down before he delivered it.

on the other hand, you have those who will never like it because of the sanctimony of his platform which makes it virtually impossible for any kind of slippage in value or something construed as a moralistic red flair.

so the bottom line is... your posts. a stalemate.




- You know, I've been hearing that "closet sexist" BS for some time now - especially from rabid Clinton supporters. I think it comes from some sort of poor sportsmanship due to losing the nomination. So if Obama isn't a woman, and he hasn't said anything that can be considered even remotely sexist - then just label him a "closet sexist". Is that about right?

And that "you are likeable enough" comment (there was nothing sexist about that - and you know it) was to stop Hillary from playing the victim.....yet again. "Oh poor me, everyone likes Barack and not me, oh poor me, it is so hard out here on the campaign trail (sniff sniff), oh poor me, the media is out to get me." Want some cheese with that whine, Hill?

Need I remind you, Obama was raised by two strong women and married one real tough woman as well. Does a sexist do that? No, all the "closet sexists" are primarily on the Republican side. You know, where the wives aren't trusted to say too much or campaign for their husbands - "just wear a nice dress and look good standing next to me, honey".

By the way, you obviously haven't been covering Richardson - he has sported a beard before. In addition, he will not be Obama's VP. A "black" guy and a Hispanic? That spells doom in November.

Richardson saw what Clinton was and still is doing - namely destroying the Democratic party and it's chances in the fall. She is the one with infidelity issues - namely to her own party. (At least she has something in common with Bill now.) Hillary is doing the work of the Republicans now - and for what? It will be a cold day in hell before the supers back her. She has no chance but is too power-hungry drunk to know the stark reality. She is just wasting everyone's money. What a joke.

And after this nasty, negative campaign by Billary, what does Obama do? Does he respond in kind? No, he just dusts off his suit, straightens his tie, and moves forward with his message.




We'll soon see if it was a "stalemate" or if it had an impact - apparently it did on Richardson.

If Obama's numbers rise in the next two weeks, we'll have an answer.



Oops, I guess we don't have to wait even that long:


I find it amusing that the pundits wre saying an old pastor's comments would "doom" the Obama campaign. Anyone ever consider that the people who would change their vote based on those comments weren't going to vote for Obama anyway - ie racists/bush supporters/fox news watchers?


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