Main Article Content
Students in an undergraduate Political Science class at Kent State University performed a Q sort concerning the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, and each administered it to two other persons, for a total of n=47. Another n=26 Q sorts were obtained from students at Westminster College. The two sets of Q sorts were analyzed separately, the Kent sample producing four factors, the Westminster sample producing three. Refactoring the data indicated that the three Westminster factors matched three of the Kent factors almost exactly. Factor A provides an anti-Clinton, Conservative “spin” on the scandal. Factor B is willing to hold Clinton responsible for his actions, but maintain that those seeking impeachment are overreacting to the situation. Factor C, a bipolar factor, represents an indignation-cynicism dichotomy, with those at one end of the factor reacting moralistically, while those on the other end are cynical toward the political process more generally. Finally, Factor D was found only among the Kent respondents, and was comprised mostly of liberal Democrats. The major theme of Factor D was that Clinton’s private life should be of little concern to the public, and that the President’s political opponents exploited the crisis.
The study helps to clarify views of the scandal that confounded pundits who seemed confused in reading polling data. During much of the scandal the public expressed dismay at Clinton’s behavior, while simultaneously endorsing his performance as president. These results reveal that the categories of Democrats vs. Republicans are far too crude to capture the realities of the public’s reactions in light of the more subtle and nuanced reactions of the factors in this study.