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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

Two polls are already out on Mark Sanford’s future in South Carolina, both of which were conducted in the wake of his dramatic press conference yesterday. One poll, from SurveyUSA, reports that 60 percent of South Carolinians want Sanford to resign, versus 34 percent who say he should stay in office. The other, from InsiderAdvantage, is somewhat more sympathetic toward Sanford: 50 percent in that poll think he should resign, versus 42 who think he should remain South Carolina’s governor.

Sanford appears to face more pressure to resign than most other recent politicians who have been caught with their pants down. In comparison to the 50-60 percent who are calling for Sanford’s resignation:

– Two polls on Eliot Spitzer (one of which was conducted after he had actually left office) found between 70 and 81 percent of New Yorkers, respectively, favoring his resignation.
– The only poll of Idahoans on Larry Craig found 51 percent opposed to his decision to stay in office, versus 21 percent supporting it and 28 percent undecided.
– Four polls on former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey, two of which were conducted after he’d quit, found that between 44-53 percent wanted him to resign after it was revealed he’d had an affair with male adviser Golan Cipel.
– Some 30 polls conducted on Bill Clinton after he admitted on August 17th, 1998 to an “inappropriate relationship” with Monica Lewinsky found varying margins of between 18-40 percent calling for his resignation, with an average of 32 percent.
– A Mason-Dixon poll conducted earlier this week on John Ensign found that 29 percent of Nevadans want him to resign.
– Finally, the only poll we could find on David Vitter had just 20 percent of Louisianans calling for his resignation, although this poll was conducted on behalf of a Republican gubernatorial candidate.

All data was compiled from PollingReport.com.

The chart below correlates the politicians with their particular peccadilloes:

It’s actually somewhat hard to find any signature patterns here. Eliot Spitzer’s affairs involved kinky, high-priced prostitutes, for instance, but so did David Vitter’s. Being caught with another man probably makes matters worse, although both McGreevey and Craig had other aggravating circumstances: in McGreevey’s case because he had appointed the underqualified Cipel to be his homeland security adviser, and in Craig’s because he was arrested for his conduct. In addition to McGreevey, Clinton’s and Ensign’s affairs also involved their immediate subordinates, but calls for their resignations were relatively low. Being an executive, as opposed to a legislator, might make matters worse; that is one big difference between Spitzer and Vitter.

Still, the reason that I suspect that Sanford’s numbers are as high as they are is because of the dereliction of duty it entailed: both his mysterious absence from the state for six days and the flimsy excuses his staff came up with to explain it. The number of people who want you to resign if you “just” have a garden-variety, heterosexual affair seems to be no higher than 20-30 percent, but Sanford’s numbers are at least twice that.

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