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Actually, American voters don't care too much about political sex scandals

As Eliot Spitzer takes another shot at public office, like Mark Sanford and Anthony Weiner and a score of other tarnished politicians who slept/cheated/sexted their way out of previous jobs, The Atlantic takes a look at the kind of negativity attached with a political scandal in modern American politics.

Actually, American voters don't care too much about political sex scandals

FILE - This Nov. 12, 2009 file photo shows former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer addressing an audience during a Harvard University ethics forum on the school´s campus in Cambridge, Mass. Spitzer, who stepped down in 2008 over a prostitution scandal, is planning a return to political life with a run for New York City comptroller. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, file)
FILE - This Nov. 12, 2009 file photo shows former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer addressing an audience during a Harvard University ethics forum on the school's campus in Cambridge, Mass. Spitzer, who stepped down in 2008 over a prostitution scandal, is planning a return to political life with a run for New York City comptroller. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, file)

As Eliot Spitzer takes another shot at public office, like Mark Sanford and Anthony Weiner and a score of other tarnished politicians who slept/cheated/sexted their way out of previous jobs, The Atlantic takes a look at the kind of negativity attached with a political scandal in modern American politics.

Turns out that people only barely care about sex scandals.

The Atlantic cites findings from University of Houston researcher Scott Basinger who examined the political fallout for all 237 scandaled members of the House from 1973 to 2010. You'll be entirely shocked to learn that time helps scandals and that the penalty for sexting a mistress only costs a politician about five points at the polls.

Does the public view sex scandals differently than other types of scandals? Basinger looked at this too. Corruption scandals, he found, hurt politicians the most, costing them an average of 7.8 percentage points. Sex scandals and financial scandals (like tax evasion or taking kickbacks) each depressed vote margins by 5.3 points. Scandals involving campaign violations had no statistically significant effect on vote share at all.

In sum, voters do seem to care about sex scandals, but not that much. Basinger wonders if some politicians overestimate scandals' potential fallout when they resign right away, like former Rep. Chris Lee, who stepped down the same day he was revealed to have sent shirtless pictures of himself to a woman he met on Craigslist. "Given that my evidence shows you only lose about 5 percent, I would think it would be worth trying to hang on," Basinger said.

Five percent. That's it and that's all. Maybe that explains Ted Kennedy and Grover Cleveland and the resurgent popularity of Prez Billy Jeff Clinton. America: Land of the free, home of the second (and third and fourth) chances for Senators who frequent prostitutes and pols who send d*** pics to interns. [The Atlantic]

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