How do Americans view personal immorality and the ability of an elected official to act ethically in their job? Does an elected official’s personal, moral behavior have any effect on public opinion? The answer to that question has taken a quantum leap in the wrong direction over the past five years.
The Public Religion Research Institute released an article titled, “More Americans Say Personal Immorality Not Disqualifying for Elected Officials”. The article shows that in just 5 years, the percentage of Americans who believe that personal immorality has no effect on an elected official’s ability to perform their job ethically has risen by 17 percent. Republicans have had the biggest change of heart. In 2011 only 36 percent thought an immoral elected official could perform their duties ethically. Now it is 70 percent.
“Compared to 2011, Americans today are more likely to say elected officials can still perform their public duties in an ethical manner even if they have committed immoral personal acts. More than six in ten (61%) Americans say immoral personal behavior does not preclude public officials from carrying out their public or professional duties with honesty and integrity; only 29 percent of the public disagree. In 2011, the public was much more divided over the connection between personal behavior and professional ethics. Forty-four percent of Americans said public officials could still conduct themselves honorably in their professional duties even if they had engaged in immoral behavior in their personal life; an equal number (44%) of Americans disagreed.
Across the political spectrum, Americans today are less likely to believe personal transgressions prevent public officials from performing their duties well. Seven in ten (70%) Republicans and more than six in ten Democrats (61%) and independents (63%) say public officials can behave ethically in their professional roles even if they acted immorally in their personal life. Notably, in 2011 only 36% of Republicans agreed, compared to nearly half of Democrats (49%) and independents (46%).”