There is one notable group of voters who seem more inclined to believe Biden’s accuser, Tara Reade, than him — the independents whom Biden pitched his primary campaign on being able to win.
Even though this poll shows a clear partisan split — Republican voters are more likely to believe Reade than Democrats — there’s not a clear consensus. Even half of Republicans don’t say the allegation is true. And while independents say they’re inclined to believe Reade over Biden by a margin of nearly 2 to 1, a majority either don’t believe it or don’t have an opinion.
It is notable that the respondents who said they did not have an opinion volunteered that. The Monmouth question did not offer a third response, meaning almost a third of respondents were not willing to weigh in based on what they know.
Biden seems to want to put the allegation behind him, but if this keeps coming up, these numbers suggest it might not affect his prospects of beating Trump. The poll does not show any notable drop in Biden’s approval rating since the allegation came out, and it actually shows him slightly widening his lead against Trump, to nine points.
It is possible the independents who are not inclined to believe Biden are not inclined to vote for him anyway. That same Monmouth University poll found that 47 percent of independents have an unfavorable view of Biden. And in an earlier April poll by Monmouth, independents said they’d vote for Trump by 10 points over Biden (47 percent to Biden’s 37 percent).
But still, Biden ran with a primary argument that he could win over independent Trump voters in key swing states. It is not helpful to his case that he became the presumptive nominee and immediately faced a sexual assault allegation that has some of those voters skeptical that he’s telling the truth.
But then again, maybe being accused of sexual assault is not a red line for many voters: Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct by more than a dozen women. Trump has conspicuously put more emphasis on the apparent hypocrisy of Democrats’ “believe all women” mantra than the allegation against Biden. He has even given Biden some cover, saying that getting accused of sexual assault is just something that happens when you’re a powerful man: “As soon as you’re famous, you get accused,” Trump said.
The poll question about Biden was added after Friday, when Biden publicly addressed Reade’s allegation that in 1993 Biden sexually assaulted her in a Senate building.
“Unequivocally, it never, never happened,” Biden said Friday on MSNBC.
Reade has maintained it did happen.. Since The Washington Post and New York Times published investigations into Reade’s claim last month, the developments have been fast moving. A woman who lived next to Reade in California several years after Reade left Washington told The Post last week that Reade had confided to her that she was assaulted by Biden. Other corroborations have not been as clear cut.
The conversation has now moved to whether Reade filed a complaint against Biden at the time. She says she did although that it was not about harassment or sexual assault. Biden says he is confident no such complaint exists.
For reasons mentioned above, Trump has not seemed too eager to attack Biden on the merit of the allegation itself, but his campaign does seem willing to use this to try to hurt Biden’s trustworthiness with voters. We are starting to see if there is any political benefit to that tactic, and so far it seems mixed.