Sexual harassment in the workplace is a major issue that has to be addressed in a serious way, according to 74 percent of American voters responding to a Suffolk University/USA Today national poll.
Fifty-nine percent said they believe the accounts of women accusing prominent men of sexual harassment, while 5 percent believe these men’s denials, and 35 percent are undecided, according to the poll.
Voters’ ire may have far-reaching policy and political implications.
Over 84 percent of voters said that members of Congress should be barred from using public funds to settle sexual harassment and other workplace disputes, and over 89 percent said that the names of members of Congress involved in these settlements – past and future – should be made public.
The issue also would tip the scale against politicians for 74 percent of voters, who said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate facing credible allegations of sexual misconduct, even if their political views were in agreement. Indeed, that issue may have tipped the scales in Alabama, where Democratic candidate Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore to capture a U.S. Senate seat in Tuesday’s special election. Moore had been accused of sexual misconduct and assault on teenage girls when he was in his 30s, allegations he has denied.
Since the sexual harassment allegations by women against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein boiled over nine weeks ago, dozens of men at the highest levels of media, politics and corporate America have been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple accusers, including actor Kevin Spacey, TV personalities Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, U.S. Reps. John Conyers and Trent Franks, and Sen. Al Franken.
"According to women, this is a watershed moment,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston. “However, men were split between whether this will have ongoing significance in terms of sexual harassment in the workplace or that, once the attention fades, nothing much will have changed.”
Overall, 49 percent of respondents said this is a turning point, while 40 percent said nothing much will have changed once the attention fades. Among women, 53 percent said this is a watershed moment, while 36 percent said nothing will change. Men were split, with 45 percent saying things will change and 44 percent saying the issue will fade away.
Nearly 1 in 4 respondents said they have personally experienced sexual harassment as defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Among women, 33 percent said they had experienced sexual harassment, compared to 14 percent of men.
When those who had received unwanted sexual advances were asked if they had reported the incident, 29 percent had done so while 69 percent had not. Forty-two percent of those who had reported such incidents said the person named had been held accountable, while 48 percent said this was not the case for them.
Republican tax plan
The Republican tax plan did not fare well with registered voters, as 48 percent of those polled oppose the House and Senate versions, while 32 percent support them. When asked which group will benefit most from a tax-cut bill signed into law, 6 percent said the poor will benefit; 17 percent indicated the middle class; and 64 percent said the wealthy would benefit. Only 31 percent of respondents said they would personally pay lower taxes if a final version is signed into law, while 53 percent said they would not benefit.
The nationwide survey of 1,000 voters was conducted Dec. 5 through Dec. 9 using live telephone interviews of households where respondents indicated they were registered to vote. The margin of error is +/-3 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence. Marginals and full cross-tabulation data are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website: www.suffolk.edu/SUPRC.