Home > Press Releases > Partisanship Trumps Gender: Sexual Harassment, Woman Candidates, Access to Contraception, and Key Issues in 2018 Midterms
Partisanship Trumps Gender: Sexual Harassment, Woman Candidates, Access to Contraception, and Key Issues in 2018 Midterms

Survey: Majority of Republicans, but Few Democrats, Would Consider Supporting a Candidate Accused of Sexual Harassment

Six in Ten Americans Believe Country Would Benefit from More Women in Public Office

WASHINGTON – Amid the bitter confirmation fight over Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination for the Supreme Court, now hinging on sexual-assault allegations, and the battle for control of Congress, PRRI today released a new survey exploring Americans’ attitudes toward sexual harassment, support for female political candidates, access to contraception, and key issues in the upcoming midterm elections.

Most Voters Will Not Support Candidates Accused of Sexual Harassment

Six in ten (60 percent) Americans say that they would definitely not vote for a political candidate who had been accused of sexual harassment by multiple people. Thirty-two percent say they would still consider voting for such a candidate.

More than two-thirds (68 percent) of women, compared to 53 percent of men, say they would definitely not vote for a candidate accused by multiple people of sexual harassment.

“While majorities of men and women both say they wouldn’t vote for a candidate accused of sexual harassment, partisanship trumps gender on this issue,” said PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones. “Strong majorities of Democratic men and women, compared to only about four in ten Republican women and fewer than three in ten Republican men, say they wouldn’t vote for a candidate facing multiple accusations of sexual harassment.”

Eighty-one percent of Democrats, including 84 percent of women and 76 percent of men, say they would definitely not vote for someone accused of sexual harassment. By contrast, only about a third (34 percent) of Republicans, including 41 percent of women and 28 percent of men, agree. A majority (56 percent) of Republicans say they would consider voting for a candidate facing multiple accusations of sexual harassment.

Most Americans Believe U.S. Would Benefit From More Female Leaders, Though Seven in Ten Say Candidate’s Gender Would Not Influence Voting Decision

Seventy percent of Americans, including 66 percent of women and 74 percent of men, say the gender of the candidate does not matter to them. Seventeen percent say they prefer a female candidate, while just 11 percent say they would prefer a man.

Women are almost twice as likely as men to say they prefer female candidates (22 percent vs. 12 percent). Twenty-seven percent of Democrats say they would prefer a female candidate, compared to only six percent of Republicans.

Nevertheless, the power of partisanship over gender is also evident in this question. While Democratic women are more likely than Democratic men to say they prefer female candidates (33 percent vs. 18 percent), Republican women are more likely than Republican men to express a preference for male candidates (23 percent vs. 14 percent).

Still, most (60 percent) Americans believe the country would be better off with more women in public office. This is basically unchanged from 2016, when 58 percent of Americans believed the country would benefit from more women in office.

Rising Health Care Costs and Protecting Coverage for Pre-existing Conditions Top Personal Priorities List

On the list of health and gender-related issues, majorities of Americans say that the rising costs of health care (58 percent) and protecting health care coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions (53 percent) are critical issue to them personally. Around four in ten say abortion (41 percent) and sexual harassment in the workplace (39 percent) are critical issues. Fewer Americans say the pay gap between men and women (30 percent) and access to contraception (28 percent) are issues critically important to them.

Here, too, there are sharp partisan divides, as Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say any of these policy issues are personally critical:

  • Rising health care costs (67 percent vs. 48 percent)
  • Protecting health care coverage for pre-existing conditions (65 percent vs. 40 percent)
  • Sexual harassment in the workplace (50 percent vs. 27 percent)
  • Abortion (47 percent vs. 40 percent)
  • The pay gap between men and women (45 percent vs. 14 percent)
  • Access to contraception (43 percent vs. 16 percent)

Broad Agreement Across Partisan, Religious Lines on Access to Contraception and Abortion Services PRRI found broad agreement among Americans on major issues related to women’s health and reproductive rights.

Two-thirds (67 percent) of Americans agree that pharmacists should not be allowed to refuse to provide contraceptives to women with a valid prescription on religious grounds. Only 26 percent of Americans support such restrictions. Americans are broadly united, across the board, against this policy. More than seven in ten (71 percent) women and nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of men are opposed to this religious exemption, as are majorities of Democrats (76 percent) and Republicans (56 percent).

Moreover, majorities of every major religious group, including white evangelical Protestants (53 percent), object to policies that would grant pharmacists the right to refuse contraceptives to women on religious grounds. A majority of the religiously unaffiliated (75 percent), as well as white mainline Protestants (74 percent), black Protestants (67 percent), and Catholics (66 percent) agree.

“It is simply remarkable to see majorities of Americans united across partisan and religious lines to require pharmacists, regardless of their personal religious beliefs, to fill valid prescriptions for contraceptives,” said PRRI Research Director Dan Cox. “It’s rare enough to find any issue on which a majority of all Americans agree, let alone one around reproductive health where there have been so many political battles.”

Americans also oppose rules which ban health care providers who receive federal funding from discussing abortion with their patients. Six in ten (60 percent) Americans oppose such a policy, while roughly one-third (31 percent) support it. It’s another rare issue in which agreement cuts across partisan

and religious lines: About six in ten Democrats (62 percent) and Republicans (59 percent) oppose such a policy, as do majorities of all major religious groups, including 60 percent of white evangelical Protestants.

Moreover, Americans also widely agree that access to contraception is critical for the financial security of women (70 percent agree vs. 24 percent disagree).

Additional Findings of Note

  • Generic Ballot Favors Dems in 2018: Democratic candidates have a seven-point advantage over Republican candidates in 2018, with 49 percent of registered voters saying they would prefer the Democratic candidate in their district if the election were held today. Forty-two percent say they would vote for the Republican candidate.
  • President Trump’s Approval Remains Under Water: A majority (52 percent) of all Americans have an unfavorable view of President Trump, while 42 percent view him favorably. White evangelical Protestants remain among the president’s stalwart supporters, with 72 percent holding a favorable opinion of Trump. Opinions of Trump have remained stable since early 2017, when 52 percent expressed a negative view of him then.


The survey was designed and conducted by PRRI. Results of the survey were based on bilingual (Spanish and English) RDD telephone interviews conducted between August 22, 2018, and September 2, 2018, by professional interviewers under the direction of SSRS. Interviews were conducted among a random sample of 1,856 adults 18 years of age or older living in the United States (1,124 respondents were interviewed on a cell phone). The margin of error for the survey is +/- 2.7 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. The design effect for the survey is 1.4. The survey was made possible by a generous grant from an anonymous donor with additional support from The Nathan Cummings Foundation, Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock, and The New World Foundation.

About PRRI:

PRRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to conducting independent research at the intersection of religion, culture and public policy.