Politics

Women and Men Disagree on Kavanaugh After Sexual Assault Allegation

Poll finds sharp gender difference in views of Supreme Court nominee

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, shown here with his wife Ashley, and daughters Margaret, left, and Liza, has been portrayed as a champion of young women. In the aftermath of a sexual assault allegation, though, women are not so sure, a new poll finds. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Americans became sharply divided on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in the days after a woman came forward accusing him of a drunken sexual assault while they were teenagers, according to a nonpartisan poll released Wednesday.

The fault line fell along gender. Forty percent of male respondents to an Economist/YouGov poll had a somewhat or very favorable opinion of Kavanaugh versus just 26 percent of women.

Both parties must now weigh how to respond to the newest wild card — and the gendered response — in a confirmation process that was widely considered a done deal until Christine Blasey Ford detailed her account on Sunday. The poll of 1,500 American adults was conducted Sunday through Tuesday.

Even before Ford came forward, Republicans had sought to make their nominee appealing to women, presenting him as a father to two young daughters and a mentor to countless female lawyers. That campaign became even more pronounced this week as the new trajectory of the confirmation hearings became a litmus test of how much the country has changed in the immediate aftermath of the #metoo movement and in the decades since Anita Hill.

The poll shows that Republicans controlling the Senate could have more wiggle room with female voters than male. The number of male and female respondents who had unfavorable views of Kavanaugh was about equal: 36 percent of men said their opinion was either unfavorable or very unfavorable and 35 percent of women said the same. However, fewer men remained undecided: 24 percent, versus 39 percent of women.

Women had more critical opinions of Kavanaugh’s qualifications. Only 30 percent of women versus 48 percent of men thought Kavanaugh, a U.S. Appeals court judge, was qualified to join the Supreme Court. Twenty-nine percent of women, versus 25 percent of men, thought he was unqualified. And 41 percent of women were unsure, versus 27 percent of men.

Fewer women thought the Senate should confirm Kavanaugh.

Twenty-seven percent of female respondents said Kavanaugh should be confirmed, versus 44 percent of male respondents. Equal numbers of men and women — 34 percent — said he should not be confirmed, and 39 percent of women said they were not sure, versus 22 percent of men.

The poll also surveyed respondents’ views on sexual harassment and personal experience of sexual assault. It found 78 percent of women think sexual harassment is a serious or somewhat serious problem in the United States, while 72 percent of men said the same. Fifty percent of female respondents said they had been sexually harassed and 49 percent said they had been a victim of sexual assault.

Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in Internet panel using sample matching. The sample was weighted based on gender, age, race, education, 2012 and 2016 Presidential votes. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points. The Economist has an ownership stake in FiscalNote, the parent company of Roll Call.

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