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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 01:34 PM ET, 11/01/2011

Poll watcher: Sexual harassment and discrimination; Americans miss crime drop and Catholic public opinion

Republicans perceive less discrimination against women — Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is facing intense scrutiny over allegations that he sexually harassed former coworkers while heading the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. How prevalent is sexual harassment and what do Republicans think about gender discrimination generally?

About one in six Americans — and a quarter of women — report experiencing sexual harassment at work at some point, according to a 2010 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll. Of those who faced harassment, most chose not to report it.

More than one in three adults said there is a lot of discrimination against women in a 2009 Pew Research Center poll, including 44 percent of women and 30 percent of men. Fewer than three in 10 Republicans said women face a lot of discrimination (28 percent), while 40 percent of independents and 45 percent of Democrats see such a bias.

Americans aloof on crime drop — The violent crime rate in the United States has plummeted since a peak in 1994, dropping almost every year since then and steadily throughout the 2000s, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. But Americans’ crime barometer seems disturbingly off the mark. Majorities in all but three Gallup polls since the precipitous drop began say there is more crime than there was the previous year. And in 2011, 68 percent of adults say there is more crime this year than last year, 17 percent say less and 8 percent think it’s about the same.

About four in 10 recognized a drop in crime in polls in 2000 and 2001, following a national drop in crime from 51 violent crime victims per 1,000 people in 1994 to 27 in 2000. The reasons for the wide gap between perception and reality are unclear. It’s quite possible that tracking crime statistics is simply too mundane for most Americans to follow (or for the media to harp on).

Network news coverage of crime has dropped steadily from a spike in 1995 through the 2000s according to data compiled by Andrew Tyndall. Have other theories for the gap between perception and reality of the crime rate? Tee off in the comments section!

Catholic opinion doesn’t match Church on contraception and abortion — A contentious battle between Catholic groups has flared in recent days, writes The Washington Post’s Jerry Markon, fueled by ongoing divisions over access to abortion and birth control. But while Catholics leaders have taken strong stances against abortion and contraceptives, attitudes of American Catholics on these issues depict a flock that is divided or outright opposed to church teaching.

Fully 88 percent of Catholics said it was morally acceptable to use birth control pills or condoms in a 2003 Washington Post-ABC poll. More recently, 84 percent of Catholics in a March 2011 CBS News poll said someone who practices “artificial birth control” can still be a good Catholic. And 56 percent of Catholics said abortion should be legal in most (16 percent) or all cases (40 percent) in a July Post-ABC poll, similar to 54 percent of the public overall. Weekly Mass attendance matters here: A 57 percent majority of Catholics who attend worship services at least once a week say abortion should be illegal, but 65 percent of less observant Catholics say it should be legal.

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By  |  01:34 PM ET, 11/01/2011

Categories:  GOP nomination

 
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