THE STUDY NOVEMBER 29, 2011
Herman Cain is said to be “reassessing” his candidacy amid new allegations of infidelity—specifically, Ginger White’s claim that she carried on a 13-year affair with the candidate. Cain is already facing numerous allegations of sexual harassment and even sexual assault. Is this the final blow to his campaign?
A recent paper by three political scientists provides perspective, if not hope. In a study examining the impact of financial and moral scandals, researchers found that voters actually make rather clear distinctions between personal traits and job performance, and even if scandals badly damage opinions of the former, they may have a relatively weak effect on opinions of the latter. In an effort to understand why some scandals provoke more negative reactions, the authors proposed “abuse of power” as a crucial component. This, they found, is a formidable hypothesis: To understand how scandals will impact a candidate, they write, “it is crucial to consider the relationship between the scandalous behavior and the official’s formal responsibilities.” Of course, that’s hardly good news for Cain—by this measure, even if voters view his alleged infidelity as a strictly personal matter, they are unlikely to forgive harassment allegations from former subordinates.
Of course, the study’s results have limitations, and in this case it may be best to simply consult an expert. Luckily, one has weighed in: noted family man Newt Gingrich, who says that despite these charges of infidelity, Cain’s candidacy isn’t necessarily over. Well, Newt should know, shouldn’t he?