Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Voters care more about abuse of power than sex scandals

Political scandals are, in a sense, like car crashes: They attract our attention because they bring out our morbid curiosity. Will this be the end of a big-time politician’s career? Or will the voters simply shrug?

Newly published research suggests the answer depends upon the type of misbehavior that has been uncovered. It finds that while sex scandals tend to get the most media coverage, they have the least impact on voters’ views.

“On average, financial scandals are worse than moral ones, and abuses of power amplify the negative effects,” said University of Illinois Springfield political scientist Michael G. Miller. “Perhaps we’ve been so conditioned to sex scandals that people just brush them off.

“Whereas the ‘steward of the public trust’ idea — which is raised by scandals involving tax fraud, or misappropriation of the people’s money — has a much bigger impact in terms of voting behavior.”

Miller is co-author of a paper titled “Are Financial or Moral Scandals Worse? It Depends,” published in the October issue of the journal PS: Political Science and Politics.

Miller was featured in an November 7, 2011, article by Miller-McCune Magazine.

Read the article online