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Poll: Cheating politicians better than those who abuse power

A new poll (and a timely one) released Tuesday by Quinnipiac University shows that voters dislike politicians who abuse their power more than those caught in extramarital affairs.

The poll presented voters with a hypothetical congressman named James Miller, whose “main concern in office is developing policies to help middle-class, working families.” Miller was described as being 53 and married with two children.

Some voters were told that Miller was “unfaithful to his wife with another woman.” Among those voters, only 36 percent have a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” opinion, with 58 percent “somewhat unfavorable” or “very unfavorable.” A total of 39 percent say they definitely or probably would vote for him, while 49 percent say they definitely or probably would not vote for him.

Another group of voters were told “Miller created a new, well-paid position on his staff in order to hire an unqualified family member as a favor.” In that group, 22 percent have a very or somewhat favorable view, with 75 percent somewhat or very unfavorable. Only 24 percent definitely or probably would vote for him, with 67 percent who definitely or probably would not.

“Voters clearly see a difference between personal and official scandals. Committing adultery is far less damaging to a politician than abusing their office,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “Whether it was adultery or abuse of power, our scandal-ridden politician was unable to secure a majority for reelection, reflecting an underlying reluctance on the part of American voters to support transgressors.”

The poll also shows that voters have less tolerance if the politician is a hypocrite. For example, in one scenario where those polled were told Miller’s priority is “promoting moral values,” only 28 percent said they’d vote for him after an extramarital affair.

That’s bad news for GOP Rep. Vance McAllister (La.), after video recently surfaced of him getting it on with one of his staffers.