POLITICS

Most Voters Don't Think Sexual Assault Is Disqualifying For A Presidential Candidate

Views have shifted since 2016, a new poll finds.

Most voters say that allegations of sexual assault against this year’s presumed presidential nominees, even if true, would not be disqualifying, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey finds.

Just 29% of voters, the survey finds, say that if former Senate aide Tara Reade’s allegation against former Vice President Joe Biden is true, it would disqualify him from the presidency ― 43% say it would be relevant but not disqualifying, 16% that it wouldn’t be relevant to the election, and the rest that they’re unsure. A slightly higher 36% of voters say that the multiple allegations against President Donald Trump, if true, are disqualifying, with 35% calling them relevant but not disqualifying, 21% irrelevant, and the rest unsure. (The order in which the questions about Biden and Trump were asked was rotated for different respondents.)

Underlying those numbers is a somewhat muted partisan divide. Republican and Republican-leaning voters don’t see it as a death knell for either candidate ― 32% say it would be disqualifying for Biden, and just 12% that it would be for Trump. 

A modest 55% majority of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters say the allegations against Trump, if true, are disqualifying, with just 23% saying the same of the allegation against Biden. Their reactions to Trump suggest a shift within the party since the fall of 2016. Back then, about three-quarters of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters said the allegations against Trump, if true, disqualified him.  

Two dozen women have accused Trump of some form of sexual misconduct. An audio recording of a 2005 Trump appearance on “Access Hollywood” leaked shortly before the 2016 presidential election captured him boasting about sexually assaulting women. 

“And when you’re a star, they let you do it,” Trump said on the tape. “You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Trump and his campaign dismissed the recording as “locker room talk.” Trump later said he would sue the women who had accused him of sexual assault, but he never followed through on the threat.

In March, Reade accused Biden of kissing her and penetrating her with his fingers without her consent in a Senate hallway in 1993, when she was a staff assistant in his office. She had previously come forward in April 2019 to say that Biden had sexually harassed and inappropriately touched her. 

People who were top Biden aides in 1993 have said they never heard of the accusation, despite Reade’s insistence she had informed them. Biden has steadfastly denied assaulting Reade.

“It never happened,” Biden said on Friday morning during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” around the same time he released a statement suggesting “responsible news organizations should examine and evaluate the full and growing record of inconsistencies in her story.”

The poll was conducted after Biden’s Morning Joe interview. Reade’s first on-air interview, with former Fox News host Megyn Kelly, took place during the fielding of the poll.

Four in 10 voters now say they’ve heard at least a little about Reade’s allegation against Biden, up from 21% in a poll taken at the end of April. About one-third of voters say they consider the allegation generally credible, with one-quarter saying it is not credible and the rest that they haven’t heard enough or aren’t sure. Just 13% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters say they find the accusation credible, with 41% calling it not credible and the rest giving no opinion either way.

A majority of voters, 56%, say they’ve heard a lot about the accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault that women have made against Trump. About half say those allegations are credible, with 22% not finding them credible, and the rest not having heard enough or unsure. Just 17% of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters find the accusations credible, with 46% saying they are not credible and the rest undecided. 

Overall, voters say by a narrow 5-percentage-point margin, 39% to 34%, that Biden respects women, and by a 23-point margin, 56% to 33%, that Trump does not.

Use the widget below to further explore the results of the HuffPost/YouGov survey, using the menu at the top to select survey questions and the buttons at the bottom to filter the data by subgroups.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted May 6-8 among U.S. adults, including 769 registered voters, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost 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. 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.