POLITICS

People Don't Really Care If Politicians Smoked Pot In High School

02/05/2015 04:50 pm ET

Hardly anyone thinks candidates' high school drug use is a reason not to vote for them, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll.

A Boston Globe profile of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) last week focused on the "notable amount of pot" he smoked while attending Phillips Academy. A spokesman for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also said that the senator had "foolishly experimented with marijuana" as a teen.

But by an 8-point margin, Americans were more likely than not to say it's unfair for politicians or the media to bring up a candidate's past drug use.

Just 7 percent said that such drug use would be a disqualifying factor in their vote. Fifty-one percent said it wouldn't matter to them at all, while 24 percent said it'd make them less likely to vote for the candidate -- effectively the polling equivalent of "I don't approve, but it's probably not enough to change my mind."

Although 42 percent of Republican respondents said talking about high school drug use was fair game, just 6 percent said that learning a candidate had done drugs as a teenager would be enough to keep them from supporting him or her.

The Globe profile of Bush also said that some former students accused him of bullying, although the former governor said he didn't remember having done so.

Twenty-one percent of Americans, including 15 percent of Republicans, said they definitely would not vote for a candidate who bullied classmates. Fifty-five percent of Americans said it was fair to talk about, compared to 28 percent who said it was not.

While those numbers underscore how few people, comparatively, are bothered by youthful drug use, the percentage saying they wouldn't vote for a candidate accused of bullying should also be taken with of a grain of salt -- it's unlikely that one in five Americans would turn on a candidate they otherwise agreed with because of their high school misdeeds. When 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney faced accusations of bullying, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found that just 22 percent of Americans saw it as a "serious matter."

In the same poll, more than 70 percent of Americans agreed that neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama's high school behavior revealed much about their personal characters, and three-quarters said more generally that it wasn't fair to bring up things a political candidate did in high school.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Jan. 31-Feb. 2 among U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here. More details on the poll's methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov's reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample, rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.

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