GOP Voting Factors: Look Out for Marital Infidelity

Poll finds marital infidelity a major concern to potential GOP voters.

ByABC News
June 10, 2011, 6:39 PM

June 12, 2011 -- Mitt Romney's religion is far less of a concern to potential Republican voters than it once was, and a candidate's race or sex are non-issues for vast majorities. But if a GOP contender supports gay civil unions -- or has committed marital infidelity -- all bets are off.

Twenty percent of Republicans and Republican leaning-independents in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say they'd be less likely to support a candidate who's a Mormon; that compares to 36 percent when Romney entered the national political stage in December 2006.

Far more, 54 percent, say they'd be less apt to support a candidate for president who's been unfaithful to his or her spouse. And 50 percent would be less apt to support a candidate who favors civil unions for gay couples.

Charts and Questionnaire

Two other items are positives overall, if somewhat divisive. Forty-five percent of leaned Republicans say they'd be more likely to support someone who favors major changes in Medicare, but 21 percent would be less apt to support such a candidate. Thirty-one percent say they'd be more likely to back a candidate who's supported by the Tea Party political movement; 14 percent, less so.

Among others tested in this survey, 91 percent say it wouldn't matter to them if a candidate were black, and 78 percent say it wouldn't matter in their decision if a candidate were a woman. (Thirteen percent say they'd be more apt to support a woman; 9 percent, less so.)

The attributes or positions tested describe several of the current GOP candidates or possible candidates. Newt Gingrich has conceded marital infidelity; he also has described GOP-backed changes to Medicare as "right-wing social engineering." Jon Huntsman has expressed support for gay civil unions, and both he and Romney are Mormons. Sarah Palin, Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann are favorites of some supporters of the Tea Party political movement. And there's an African-American in the GOP race, Herman Cain, former CEO of Godfather's Pizza.

Another question was asked specifically about Huntsman, the former Utah governor who served as ambassador to China from August 2009 to February 2011. His service in the Obama administration is a negative in terms of Republican vote preference, but not a powerful one: Seventy percent of leaned Republicans say it makes no difference in their choice, while 23 percent say it leaves them less likely to support Huntsman, should he run, vs. 5 percent more likely.

In another question, 39 percent of leaned Republicans say Gingrich -- whose campaign sustained a large-scale staff resignation last week -- lacks the kind of personality and temperament it takes to serve effectively as president, a big group to lose on this basic hurdle. An additional 11 percent were undecided.

Republican candidates including Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Paul, Tim Pawlenty, Romney and Rick Santorum meet Monday evening in their first New Hampshire debate.

GROUPS -- There are differences among GOP groups in this poll, produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates. Among those who describe themselves as very conservative, 72 percent say they'd be less apt to vote for a candidate who has had an extramarital affair. That drops to 42 percent of moderate Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.