Reason-Rupe finds most Americans would be more concerned by political bullying than typical scandals that bring down politicians. Seventy percent of Americans would be “more bothered” by politicians using their political power to bully someone, while only 14 percent would be more bothered if their elected official used drugs and 11 percent would be more concerned if the politician cheated on his or her spouse.
Politicians who have been caught cheating, such as former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer or former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, often choose to step down from their elected posts. Similarly former Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL) resigned after he was arrested for cocaine possession.
Reason-Rupe poll results suggest that while the public may not approve of politician drug use or infidelity, they would be far more upset if it were proven an elected official used their political power to bully their opponents. For instance, this means that if the public were to believe allegations that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was behind lane closures on the George Washington bridge (“Bridgegate”) for political retribution, this could create very serious problems for a Christie presidential bid. However, a recent Quinnipiac poll finds only 26 percent of New Jersey voters believe Christie personally ordered the traffic jam. Instead 64 percent think Christie’s aides made the call for political retribution, and a slim majority (51 percent) believes Christie was aware of his aides’ actions. Overall, New Jersey voters are evenly divided over whether they consider Christie a bully (48 percent) or a leader (48%) with independent voters breaking in favor of leader by a margin of 54 to 43 percent. In sum, while no one likes a bully, not even New Jersey voters who have heard the most about Bridgegate are convinced Christie needs to step down.
Nationwide telephone poll conducted March 26-30 2014 interviewed 1003 adults on both mobile (503) and landline (500) phones, with a margin of error +/- 3.6%. Princeton Survey Research Associates International executed the nationwide Reason-Rupe survey. Columns may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full poll results, detailed tables, and methodology found here. Sign up for notifications of new releases of the Reason-Rupe poll here.