Americans Think Colleges Are Doing Are Bad Job Handling Sexual Assaults: HuffPost/YouGov Poll

Across party lines, people aren't happy with colleges and universities.
University of California System President Janet Napolitano speaks with Dana Bolger, co-founder of the advocacy group Know You
University of California System President Janet Napolitano speaks with Dana Bolger, co-founder of the advocacy group Know Your IX. 

A majority of Americans believe colleges and universities do a "bad job" handling cases of sexual assault and harassment involving students, a new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows.

Fifty-nine percent of poll respondents believe colleges are failing when students report sexual violence, while just 14 percent think the institutions "do a good job." Another 27 percent said they are "not sure," in a survey conducted between Aug. 20 and 23. 

The trend held steady across party lines, though women, older respondents and wealthier individuals were more likely to think colleges drop the ball on sexual assault cases. 

When asked if colleges and universities are more biased in the accuser or accused's favor, Americans were more divided. A plurality, 37 percent, said they are not sure, while 30 percent said they believe schools are more sympathetic to the accused. Seventeen percent said they think colleges are more sympathetic to the accuser, while 16 percent thought higher education institutions are "fair to both students."

Women and Democrats were more likely to say colleges are too sympathetic toward the accused in sexual assault cases, although about one-third of the members of each demographic group were still unsure. 

<a href="">View a larger version here</a>&nbsp;
View a larger version here 

These results are similar to those from a comparable survey conducted last year, which found that just 12 percent of Americans thought colleges did a "good job" handling sexual violence. In that HuffPost/YouGov poll, six in 10 Americans also said they had "little faith" in colleges in their own state to handle sexual assault cases, compared to 17 percent who said they had "a lot" of faith.

Attention to campus sexual assault has never been higher. Following an unprecedented wave of complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Education in 2013 claiming schools mishandled sexual assault cases brought by victims of attacks, the White House launched a task force on the issue. Last summer, members of Congress began introducing legislation designed to impose new rules on how higher education responds to sexual violence, and to bring new penalties against schools that mishandle these cases. 

Yet, students accused of sexual assault have also filed dozens of lawsuits claiming schools did not give them a fair hearing before punishing them. 

Congress is expected to include some portion of the legislation targeting campus sexual assault in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which lays out most of the regulations governing colleges.


The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Aug. 20-23 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 polls' 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.


Tyler Kingkade covers higher education and sexual violence and is based in New York. You can contact him at, or on Twitter: @tylerkingkade.