A recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute has revealed that religious Americans think a financial scandal is worse than a sexual one.
The poll was conducted in the wake of several high-profile cases of politicians making headlines for their sexual behavior, including U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., who resigned after he lied about sexually explicit texts he sent to women he met online. More than 90% of respondents say that a public official taking a bribe is an “extremely” or “very serious” moral problem; more than 80% say the same for a politician who cheats on taxes. But fewer than 70% of Americans polled say it’s a serious moral problem for a public official to have sex with a prostitute. The poll also discovered that people were bothered more about a politician lying to cover up a sex scandal than about the transgression itself.
Daniel Cox, PRRI’s research director, said of the findings, “There’s a dramatic difference when people are evaluating public officials’ financial versus sexual misbehavior. A significant number of folks think they can separate public officials’ personal and public lives.” He believes that people tend to think of sexual misbehavior as personal, and therefore private.