The Washington Post

Politicians don’t cheat more than regular people. They just get caught more.

The case of the Kissing Congressman -- also known as Louisiana Republican Rep. Vance McAllister -- has set off, yet again, a debate in political circles about the sexual mores (or lack thereof) of our federally elected officials.

A quick glance at Wikipedia -- they have a remarkably detailed list of political sex scandals -- shows that between 2010 and 2014 six House members succumbed to sex scandals -- and that's not even including governors (Mark Sanford!) and other downballot elected officials.  But, according to a Pew-Washington Post poll conducted in 2011, most people don't think that politicians cheat more than the general public. They just get caught more.

Image courtesy of Pew
Image courtesy of Pew

Let's do a little math. Six of the 435 members of the House have had been forced to acknowledge sexual scandals since 2010. That's roughly 1.3 percent of the legislative body. (Yes, we recognize more than 435 people have served in Congress over the past four years but we are doing some rough estimating here.)

How does that compare to statistics on cheating in the general public? According to Tom Smith, the director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Society, as quoted by Forbes in 2009: “The best estimates are that about 3 percent to 4 percent of currently married people have a sexual partner besides their spouse in a given year and about 15 percent to 18 percent of ever-married people have had a sexual partner other than their spouse while married.”

Extramarital affairs are still looked upon as a grievousmoral transgression, ranking at the bottom of a 20-issue list of behavior offered by Gallup -- a positioned unchanged in the last 12 years.  Having an affair ranks as more morally unacceptable than cloning humans or polygamy.

Image courtesy of Gallup
Image courtesy of Gallup

The conclusion? Politicians. They're just like us.

In a video obtained by "The Ouachita Citizen," Rep. Vance McAllister (R-La.) is allegedly seen kissing a female member of his district office staff last December. The congressman has since issued an apology saying, "There's no doubt I've fallen short and I'm asking for forgiveness." (The Ouachita Citizen)
Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.



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