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Sexual Assault, Brett Kavanaugh, and the Supreme Court
PRRI Staff,

A few tumultuous weeks of sexual assault allegations from three women and a series of back-and-forths between Democrats and Republicans have culminated in a hearing where Dr. Christine Blasey Ford presented her account of sexual assault, and Judge Brett Kavanagh denied all claims. What America witnessed during Ford and Kavanaugh’s testimonies unearthed the fierce partisan divides over issues of sexual assault.

Republicans and Democrats have widely divergent concerns around accusations of sexual assault. Democrats overwhelmingly say that unreported or disbelieved experiences of sexual assault and harassment are a bigger problem than false accusations (78% vs. 16%). Republicans overall agree with this assessment, although at lower levels (52% vs. 36%). But Republican men are considerably more divided.

A recent PRRI survey showed that 41 percent of Republican men believe false accusations of sexual assault or harassment are a bigger problem than unreported or disbelieved experiences. Less than half, 47 percent, say that unreported or disbelieved instances are a bigger issue.

The significant shift among President Trump’s base of white evangelicals on a leader’s moral character also explains the partisan divide, explains PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones, Ph.D.

“One primary reason Republican Party leaders are pushing forward with Kavanaugh’s nomination is that the party’s support for Trump has already pulled the needle on their moral compass away from the relevance of character and personal moral conduct,” Jones says.

He continues, “In the Trump era, more than seven in 10 white evangelicals now say an elected official can behave ethically even if they have committed transgressions in their personal life—a 42-point jump from 2011, when only 30 percent of white evangelical Protestants said the same. This is one of the most shocking reversals in recent public life—that among these self-described ‘values voters,’ a political ethic of principle has been completely supplanted by a consequentialist ethic where the ends justify the means.”