June 14, 2011

Most Say Political Sex Scandals Due to Greater Scrutiny, Not Lower Morality

Most Americans attribute the series of public sex scandals in recent years involving politicians more to the heightened scrutiny they face than to lower moral standards among elected officials.

A 57% majority say elected officials just get caught more often because they are under greater scrutiny. About two-in-ten (19%), on the other hand, say elected officials have lower moral standards than ordinary Americans, according to the latest national survey conducted June 9-12 among 1,002 adults by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and The Washington Post.

Among the 19% who attribute the scandals to lower moral standards among elected officials, most (13% of the public) say that when people get into positions of power, they tend to lose their moral standards, while 4% say that politics attracts the kind of people who have lower moral standards.

There are only slight differences in opinion across political and demographic groups. Each attributes the number of sex scandals more to the level of scrutiny faced by officials than to lower moral standards by at least a two-to-one margin. For example, 55% of men and 59% of women say that elected officials involved in sex scandals get caught more often because they are under greater scrutiny.

There also is no difference in opinion between those following the current scandal involving Rep. Anthony Weiner very closely and those following this news less closely. Weiner has acknowledged sending sexual messages and photos to at least six women online.

Overall, 12% reject both of the options offered, answering neither or giving other reasons. Among those who offer an explanation, the most frequently cited refer to elected officials’ ego or arrogance.

Cite this publication: “Most Say Political Sex Scandals Due to Greater Scrutiny, Not Lower Morality.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (June 14, 2011) http://www.people-press.org/2011/06/14/most-say-political-sex-scandals-due-to-greater-scrutiny-not-lower-morality/, accessed on July 23, 2014.