What do Americans think of George Santos?

Linley SandersData Journalist
January 07, 2023, 4:26 AM GMT+0

As George Santos — the Republican from New York State who lied about much of his biography during his victorious 2022 congressional campaign — prepares to be sworn in as a member of the U.S. House, he is viewed unfavorably by more Americans and Republicans than view him favorably.

A YouGov poll conducted from January 3 - 5 shows that most Americans think it's common — both for people generally, and for politicians — to lie about their background to get ahead. Most do not want Santos rewarded for doing so. Santos has admitted to lying about his education and work background, though he's been accused of fabricating much more about his biography.

How common is it for politicians to lie?

Nearly two-thirds of Americans say it's very or somewhat common for people to lie about their background and work experience to get a job; even more (74%) say it's common for politicians to mislead people in order to get elected. Four in five Republicans (81%) say this behavior is standard, including 55% who call it "very common." About seven in 10 Democrats (72%) believe this is common politician behavior, though fewer Democrats (35%) than Republicans say it's very common.

One in eight Americans (12%) say they have knowingly lied about information on their resume, with 37% of this group saying they misled a potential employer about their interest in the job position. Level of experience (28%), current or previous places of employment (25%), or a job title (24%) each have been a topic of deception for about one-quarter of people who have lied.

Despite this, 71% of Americans say they've never lied on a resume — and many Americans say that many types of deception are not acceptable. About three-quarters of Americans say it is not acceptable to lie about education (73%). Similar shares say the same about lying about job qualifications (73%), a place of employment (72%), or a criminal background (71%) to secure a job.

What should the House do about Santos?

Even with a widespread expectation that politicians lie about their backgrounds to win elections, Santos is viewed more negatively than positively, to an extent greater than other Republican members of Congress or his caucus. By a ratio of 3-to-1 (45% to 15%), Americans are more likely to have a very or somewhat unfavorable opinion of Santos than to have a very or somewhat favorable opinion of him, resulting in a net favorability of -30.

That's similar to the net favorability of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (-31), but worse than the net favorability of Republicans in Congress as a whole (-18 net). About two in five have no opinion of Santos. Among Republicans, he's viewed unfavorably by 38% to 21%. Two in five Republicans (40%) have no opinion of him.

Santos has admitted to some fabrications of his biography — though he calls them embellishments rather than lies. When told that Santos has admitted to lying about parts of his background and work experience while campaigning for Congress, majorities of Americans agree with proposals for the House Ethics Committee to investigate his campaign (68%), for the Speaker of the House to deny him a committee assignment (63%), for Santos to resign (58%), and for Congress to vote to remove him from his seat (55%).

Majorities of Republicans agree with two of the proposals, while 52% want Santos to step down. A similar share (48%) would support Congress voting him out. If Santos remains, 62% of Republicans want him to be denied a committee assignment and 66% want the House Ethics Committee to investigate his campaign.

See the results for this YouGov poll conducted January 3 - 5, 2023

Methodology: This poll was conducted on January 3 - 5, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample for each poll is approximately 3%.

Image: Getty Images (Win McNamee)