November 7, 2011

39% Think Cain Allegations True, 24% False

Cain Coverage, on Balance, Seen as Fair

Overview

Americans who have heard about the sexual harassment allegations against Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, on balance, think they are true rather than false. At the same time, a plurality thinks that recent coverage of Cain has been fair.

Three-quarters of the public say they have heard a lot (51%) or a little (24%) about accusations that Cain harassed several women during his tenure in the late 1990s as president of the National Restaurant Association.

Of those who had heard about the allegations, about four-in-ten (39%) say that, from what they have read and heard, they think the allegations are true. Roughly a quarter (24%) say they think the claims are false, according to the latest weekly survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Nov. 3-6 among 1,005 adults. Another 36% say they do not know (31%) or refuse to answer (5%). The survey was completed before a Chicago woman went public with a new accusation against Cain on Monday.

A plurality (43%) of those who have heard about the allegations say they think recent media coverage of Cain has been fair. Among those critical of the press coverage, more say it has been too tough (24%) than too easy (14%) on Cain.

While Republicans and Democrats are about equally likely to have heard about the allegations against Herman Cain, they have different perceptions of their validity – and of the fairness of media coverage. Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to say they think the allegations are true. Republicans are more likely to say media coverage has been too tough.

Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who have heard at least a little about this news, 39% say they think the allegations are false, 29% say they think the accusations are true and 32% say they do not know or refuse to answer. About half of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents (51%) think the allegations are true, while 14% say they are false; 35% do not offer an opinion.

Nearly four-in-ten Republicans and GOP-leaning independents (37%) who have heard about the accusations say coverage of Cain has been too tough, more than double the 14% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who say this. About four-in-ten Republicans and leaners say coverage has been fair (39%), while 10% say it has been too easy. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, about half (51%) say coverage of Cain has been fair, while 18% say it has been too easy.

Republican Women Doubt Allegations

Overall, there are no significant gender differences in views about the validity of the accusations against Cain. Roughly four-in-ten women (40%) and men (38%) who have heard at least a little about the allegations think they are true; about a quarter (25% of women, 23% of men) think they are false.

But among Republican and Republican-leaners, women are more likely than men to say they think the allegations are false. Among GOP women who have heard about the story, more say the allegations are false (46%) than true (24%) by nearly a two-to-one margin. Among GOP men, impressions are divided about equally (34% true, 33% false).