In issues of sexual harassment, most side with the accusers

In issues of sexual harassment, most side with the accusers
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The women are being believed, and the punishments are harsh

Long-time Democratic Congressman John Conyers, the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives has “retired”, effectively immediately. By more than seven to one, Americans in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, conducted before the Congressman’s decision, agree that is the right thing. Democrats and Republicans agree.

But Conyers is not alone. On Wednesday, nine female Democratic Senators (and a number of male Democrats) asked Minnesota Senator Al Franken to resign, something 43% of the public said he should do in the weekend poll. The more people say they have heard about the charges, the more likely they are to want Franken to resign. While 63% of Democrats believe the charges against Franken, they are divided on whether or not he should resign (the poll was conducted over the weekend, before the escalation in calls for Franken’s resignation from his fellow Democrats).

A majority also think Representative Blake Farenthold, a Republican from Texas, should resign. Like Conyers, he used government funds to settle in a sexual harassment charge. (He said recently that he would pay the government back.) Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats agree on this.

Just as they said in response to previous questions about the firings of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Charlie Rose, Americans say that the firing of former Today host Matt Lauer was the appropriate response. Only 10% think firing Matt Lauer was an excessive punishment for the charges of harassment made against him.

This willingness to accept women’s claims regardless of party is absent from the responses to questions about Alabama’s GOP Senate candidate, Roy Moore. Democrats and independents generally believe that he had improper sexual interactions with teenaged women when he was in his 30s, while Republicans narrowly don’t believe so (37% to 29%). But even Republicans who believe the claims would not vote for the Democratic candidate in next week’s special election, though many are torn about it. Overwhelmingly, they would prefer Moore dropped out of the race.

Half of women report their own experience with sexual harassment. Those who have had such experiences are more likely to believe the charges in all cases. 

But Republican women may be changing their thinking on the believability of harassment charges. Last week, Republican women said that unreported or unpunished allegations of sexual harassment were a bigger problem than false accusations by 62% to 38%. But this week, that has changed. Republican women are evenly divided on which is worse. Republican men, both last week and this week, say false allegations are a bigger problem.

The focus on sexual harassment was highlighted by the selection Wednesday of “The Silence Breakers,” women and men who went public with harassment accusations, as Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. 

In last weekend’s Economist/YouGov Poll the public was asked to name someone they believed derived the title, totally unprompted.

Some of the respondents answered after Time posted its list of the ten finalists, several of whom may have been mentioned more than they might have without Time’s prompting. The professional football player Colin Kaepernick, the first to “take a knee” at the playing of the national anthem, was one of those. But the women of #METOO and others who stood up to sexual harassment – and women in general – were just as likely to be mentioned.

Beating out a President for “Person of the Year” is difficult. The poll results shows why. Far more people – more than 200 – volunteered Donald Trump’s name, making it the most often mentioned. And the President tweeted his own thoughts on Time Magazine’s last week. A (somewhat smaller) number said basically they wanted “anyone but Trump.” But the value of being a president – present or former – is underscored by the dozens of who named Barack Obama, who hasn’t been president for nearly a year, as their choice.

Some other names that Americans proposed: J. J. Watt of the Houston Texans, just named as “Sportsman of the Year” by Sports Illustrated (owned by Time, Inc.), Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and Pope Francis. 

But the most common answer to the question who should be Person of the Year wasn’t President Trump. It was the combination of I don’t know, I don’t care and “no one.” One person ever suggested it has been “a bad year for human beings.” And about two dozen people just said “Me.”

Read the full results and tables here.

Image: Getty

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