Along with partisanship, there’s another factor that could minimize the impact of sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump: Republicans in general, and Trump’s primary voters in particular, were already more skeptical of women who accuse men of sexual harassment.
Consider these graphs showing support for Trump in the primaries:
Using data from the Rand Corp’s Presidential Election Panel Survey (PEPS), the left-hand graph shows a strong relationship between support for Trump in the primaries and beliefs about the consequences of sexual harassment accusations. Primary voters who strongly agreed that “women who complain about harassment often cause more problems than they solve” were 30 percentage points more likely to support Trump than Republicans who strongly disagreed with that statement.
The numbers at the bottom of the graphs are important as well. Those numbers demonstrate that fewer than half of GOP primary voters, and less than 40 percent of Trump’s primary supporters, disagreed that women who complain about harassment cause more problems than they solve. By contrast, nearly 75 percent of Democrats disagreed with that statement.
The large partisan divide in views about women who accuse men of harassment is not unique to 2016. The graph below shows a similarly large divide in both the 2016 PEPS and in a 2012 survey conducted as part of the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES). This divide reflects the longstanding partisan polarization on both gender and gender attitudes.
It’s no surprise, then, that 84 percent of Republicans in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll said that the 2005 videotape in which Trump bragged about making unwanted sexual advances “won’t make any difference” in how they vote for president.
Michael Tesler is an associate professor of political science at the University of California at Irvine and author of “Post-Racial or Most-Racial? Race and Politics in the Obama Era.”