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Americans Are Partisan About Everything — Even Sex Scandals

Welcome to Pollapalooza, our weekly polling roundup.

Poll of the week

Views about President Trump’s relationship (or lack thereof) with adult film actress Stormy Daniels are split along partisan lines, according to a Huffington Post/YouGov survey released this week. Seventy percent of Democrats found credible Daniels’ account of an extramarital affair with Trump in 2006, while just 11 percent of Republicans said the same. And if Trump did have an affair with Daniels, 82 percent of Democrats said it would have been immoral, compared with 54 percent of Republicans.

Perhaps because Daniels is in the news, along with other alleged affairs by Trump, just 26 percent of Democrats (vs. 67 percent of Republicans) agreed that “an elected official who has committed an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life.”

I’m recording this as exhibit No. 3,519,099 in our “partisanship is a helluva a drug” file. The two parties both seem to be reversing the views they had two decades ago — when a president of the other party was in the White House and faced accusations of affairs and misconduct.

  • In a CBS News poll from 1998, 77 percent of Democrats said that then-President Bill Clinton’s relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky was “a private matter” having to do with Clinton’s “personal life.” Just 16 percent of Democrats considered the affair a “public matter having to do with Bill Clinton’s job as president.” In contrast, 64 percent of Republicans cast the situation as a public concern, while 28 percent said it was a private matter.
  • Also in 1998, Gallup asked people whether they needed to know if a presidential candidate has had an extramarital affair in order to evaluate him or her — 55 percent of Republicans said yes, compared with just 16 percent of Democrats.
  • An NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey from 1999 asked respondents whether they believed Juanita Broaddrick when she said that Clinton raped her while he was serving as Arkansas attorney general. Just 13 percent of Democrats said they believed Broaddrick; 68 percent of Democrats said they did not. In contrast, 52 percent of Republicans said they believed Broaddrick; 25 percent did not. This obviously isn’t a particularly analogous situation compared to Trump’s, but it speaks to the partisanship of the responses.

And remember that back then, liberal-leaning voters and activists and Democratic members of Congress were arguing that Clinton could lead the country credibly despite his affair with Lewinsky. Republicans were making the case that Clinton’s affair showed such bad judgment that he was not fit to be president. At least in their public statements, it seemed to be universally believed by prominent conservatives that Clinton’s behavior was immoral.

The details of the Trump and Clinton situations differ, but in both cases we are talking about married male figures allegedly having extramarital affairs. It’s not easy to reconcile the idea that Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky was immoral but Trump’s with Daniels (if it happened) was not, or vice versa. We should look for more polling around these questions to be sure, but it appears that views on politicians and affairs — like so much else — are shaped by partisanship, not any underlying principle about morality or sexual conduct.

Other Polling Nuggets

  • 72 percent of American adults believe that students who participated in walkouts Wednesday to protest gun violence should not be punished by their schools, according to a new Marist poll. That view was held by 89 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of Republicans.
  • A CBS News poll found that 42 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of North Korea. That’s up 8 percentage points from January.
  • A recently released Gallup survey conducted at the end of 2017 asked college students whether protecting free speech rights or promoting a diverse and inclusive society was more important. Seventy percent selected protecting free speech, down from 78 percent in 2016.
  • 64 percent of educators say that they would feel less safe if school personnel were armed. That’s according to a survey by GBA Strategies of members of the National Education Association.
  • In a SurveyMonkey poll conducted for Cosmopolitan, 60 percent of young people (ages 18 to 34) said they were either absolutely certain to vote or would probably vote in their states’ primary elections. Less than half said that they have “always” or “nearly always” voted in past primary elections, and only a quarter said they voted in the 2014 midterm elections.
  • In a poll from UMass Lowell, 57 percent of respondents between the ages of 14 and 21 said they had watched a live or recorded video of people playing video games, and 38 percent reported being fans of esports. Just 40 percent said they were football fans.1
  • Only about half of respondents in a SurveyMonkey poll said they have faith in American democracy; 37 percent said they had lost faith, and 8 percent said they never had it.
  • Given a choice of superpowers in a Marist poll, 29 percent of adults said they wished they had the ability to time-travel. Other abilities — each getting between 10 percent and 20 percent — included mind-reading, flying, teleportation and invisibility.
  • Hunting animals for sport, according to a YouGov poll, is considered morally wrong by 71 percent of American adults. The view was shared by 58 percent of Republicans and 82 percent of Democrats.
  • The Illinois primary elections are on Tuesday, and a new We Ask America poll of likely Democratic voters showed that 31 percent were still undecided on the governor race. Billionaire J.B. Pritzker led the poll with 35 percent of the vote, followed by Chris Kennedy and Daniel Biss with around 15 percent each.
  • A study in the journal Nature of polling error in more than 30,000 polls from 45 countries recorded between 1942 and 2017 concluded that the perception that polling has become less accurate is unfounded — at the national level at least.
  • Russia is holding an election on Sunday, and in a surprise to nobody, public opinion polls (these are the ones that haven’t been banned, so take them with lots of salt) show incumbent Vladimir Putin easily in the lead. With his main opponent, Alexei Navalny, barred from running, analysts will be looking at voter turnout to gauge enthusiasm.

Trump’s approval rating

Trump’s job approval rating is at 40.4 percent, while his disapproval rating is at 53.7 percent. Last week, his approval rating was 40.6 percent, compared with a disapproval rating of 53.6 percent.

The generic ballot

The Democrats hold a 47.7 percent to 39.3 percent advantage on the generic congressional ballot this week. Last week, Democrats were up 47.7 percent to 38.8 percent.

Footnotes

  1. The poll was conducted in August but released this week.

Perry Bacon Jr. is a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.

Dhrumil Mehta is a database journalist at FiveThirtyEight focusing on politics.

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