CNN poll: 7 in 10 Americans say sexual harassment is a very serious problem

Americans view sexual harassment far more seriously than they did two decades ago, a new ...

Posted: Dec. 22, 2017 4:12 PM
Updated: Dec. 22, 2017 4:12 PM

Americans view sexual harassment far more seriously than they did two decades ago, a new CNN Poll Conducted by SSRS shows.

Nearly seven in ten Americans say sexual harassment is a very serious problem, according to the poll, a 34-point shift from a CNN/Time poll conducted in 1998.

Women are more likely than men to view harassment as extremely or very serious

The findings come amid a reckoning over sexual harassment in workplaces worldwide

Women are more likely than men to view harassment as extremely or very serious, 73% versus 63%. The concern of Democrats and independents far outpaces Republicans. Eighty-five percent of Democrats and 68% of independents see harassment as extremely or very serious, compared with 45% of Republicans.

Related: Full poll results

The latest findings come amid a reckoning over sexual harassment in the workplace that spans industries from politics to media, from sports to the entertainment business. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers face significant pressure to reform the process through which sexual harassment is handled on both sides of the Rotunda, including the once-secretive fund that pays out harassment settlements.

Just this month, three members of Congress -- former Reps. John Conyers of Michigan and Trent Franks of Arizona, as well as Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota -- have announced they'll resign their seats over allegations of inappropriate behavior or sexual misconduct. Two additional lawmakers, Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas and Ruben Kihuen of Nevada, announced that they would not seek re-election to the House.

Six in ten Americans in the latest CNN poll say that elected officials facing credible allegations of harassment should resign.

6 in 10 Americans believe Trump accusers

The national conversation about sexual misconduct and harassment has also brought a renewed focus on the stories of the at least 15 women who have come forward with a wide range of accusations against President Donald Trump, all of which took place prior to him winning the presidency. At least 15 women have come forward, with accusations ranging from sexual harassment and assault to lewd behavior in the presence of women.

RELATED: White House qualifies false Trump claim he doesn't know his accusers

Sixty-one percent of registered voters say they believe the accusations against Trump are mostly true, up from 54% of registered voters who said the same in an October 2016 CBS News/New York Times poll. However, there is a partisan difference: 89% of Democrats now say the accusations are true, while just 18% of Republicans say the same.

The CNN poll also asked Americans what should happen next when it comes to the accusations against the President.

Two-thirds of Americans say that there should be a congressional inquiry into the allegations against the President, and half of Americans say the President should resign over them. Republicans and Democrats sharply diverge. Ninety percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say there should be a congressional investigation, and just 24% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say the same. Meanwhile, 79% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say Trump should resign the presidency and 10% of Republicans agree.

2020: How Americans view two potential contenders

The CNN poll also asked Americans to assess two Democratic politicians who have been outspoken on issues of harassment and misconduct, and who are both seen as potential Democratic presidential candidates in 2020.

Former Vice President Joe Biden's favorability is at its best since February 2009, shortly after he took office as vice president. Fifty-seven percent of Americans view him positively, compared with 27% who view him negatively. His favorability among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents stands at 77%, while 10% view him unfavorably.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been a leading voice in Congress pushing legislation related to sexual harassment and assault, remains largely unknown. Fifty-five percent of Americans say they don't know enough to have an opinion on her. Her standing is slightly better among Democrats. Of those Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents that do know her, 26% say they have a favorable opinion of her, to 7% who have an unfavorable opinion.

Who should be in charge?

The last year has seen an upsurge in the number of women seeking public office at all levels. CNN's poll found that nearly two-thirds of Americans say the country would be better governed with more women in public office, the highest share to say so in CNN and Gallup surveys dating back to the 1970s. Ten percent of Americans say the country would be worse off with more women as office holders, and 16% say it wouldn't make any difference.

The CNN poll was conducted by SSRS from December 14-17, 2017 among a random national sample of 1,001 adults reached on landlines or cell phones by a live interviewer. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points, it is larger for subgroups.

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