It’s true, the French really don’t care if you cheat on your spouse

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Image: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer
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This article has been corrected.

French president Francois Hollande faces what would be a presidency-smearing scandal in just about any other country in the world.

Luckily, Hollande is the leader of France. And France, famously, doesn’t care about extramarital affairs.

Since news broke last week that Hollande had reportedly been seeing French actress Julie Gayet on the side, Hollande’s personal life has suffered. (Since 2007, Hollande has lived with his partner, journalist Valerie Trierweiler.)  “Everyone in his personal life can go through difficult periods; this is the case for us. These are painful moments,” the French president said in a much anticipated national address today.

But scandal doesn’t seem to have worsened the country’s already-dim view of Hollande as a leader. Since France became aware of his extramarital affair, popular appraisal of the-very-unpopular president has improved. Hollande’s approval rating rose two points to 26% last week, after hitting a record low of 15% back in November.

France has a reputation for tolerating sexual peccadillos among powerful men. Rumors of indiscretions swirled around Hollande’s predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife Carla Bruni as well as Sarkozy’s predecessor Jacques Chirac. President Francois Mitterrand’s widow famously invited his mistress and her—and Mitterand’s—daughter to his funeral.

But Pew Research data confirms that France actually is quite an outlier when it comes to tolerating affairs. A mere 47% of the country sees extramarital affairs as being morally unacceptable for married people. That’s far and away the lowest percentage found among the nearly 40 countries included in the survey. To put that number in perspective, across surveyed nations a median of 79% of respondents said extramarital affairs are morally unacceptable.

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Correction: A previous version of this post said Hollande is married. He is not married. Though he has lived with his partner journalist Valerie Trierweiler since 2007