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Poll puzzler on adultery query

December 27, 2007 |  7:12 pm

Sometimes, adults say the darnedest things to pollsters (apologies to Art Linkletter).

Buried deep in the new L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll of Iowans and New Hampshirites  -- you can read about its key findings here and pore over all the numbers here -- was this question: "If you found out that a presidential candidate you support had, in the past, had an extramarital affair, would that affect your support of that candidate, or not?"

This didn't surprise us, given the differences between the two major parties in general on the importance of cultural issues: In Iowa, 73% of the Democratic voters said an adulterous past would have no effect on how they view a candidate, while 39% of the state's Republican voters were similarly nonchalant.

Here's what did shock us: A mere 8% of the Democrats said the revelation of an affair would make them more likely to back a White House contender, while 22% of the Republicans said yes to that! (In terms of less likely, the results were 11% among Democrats, 27% among Republicans.)

The splits were less pronounced among New Hampshire voters, but still evident. The breakdowns:

No effect -- Democrats, 72%; Republicans, 52%.

More likely -- Democrats, 7%; Republicans, 18% (again causing us to scratch our heads).

Less likely -- Democrats, 8%; Republicans, 20%.

The poll's error margin for responses from Iowa Democrats is plus-or-minus 4 percentage points; for Iowa Republicans, it's plus-or-minus 6 percentage points. In New Hampshire, the error margins are plus-or-minus 4 percentage points for Democrats, 5 percentage points for the Republicans. So maybe there's less of a gap in those "more likely" answers (then again, maybe the difference is even larger).

Maybe lots of Republicans didn't hear the question as well as the Democrats. Then again, maybe there's a segment of the GOP that bears further examination.

-- Don Frederick