After nearly a month of silence on former Senate staffer Tara Reade’s allegations of sexual assault against him, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden appeared on MSNBC on May 1 to publicly deny those claims for the first time. His response found a mixed reaction among the public.
According to the latest Yahoo News/YouGov poll, nearly half of respondents — 49 percent — were “not satisfied” with Biden’s response to Reade’s allegations. Only 19 percent said they were “very satisfied”; the remaining 32 percent were “somewhat satisfied.”
This split shifts significantly in partisan cross-tabulations. Republicans — taking their cue from party leaders who accuse Biden and his supporters of hypocrisy for dismissing Reade’s account, in contrast to how Democrats treated the assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — overwhelmingly find Biden’s response unacceptable. Seventy-six percent of GOP respondents were “not satisfied” and only 9 percent were “very satisfied.”
In contrast, most Democrats were at least “somewhat satisfied” (41 percent) or “very satisfied” (37 percent) with Biden’s explanation. The party rank and file may be waiting for progressive leaders to signal a direction. Many major women’s groups have declined or not responded to requests for comment. Major endorsers, including former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have yet to publicly address the allegations.
The parties are split similarly on whether they even believe the allegations in the first place.
Barely any Democrats (12 percent) said they definitely believed that Biden assaulted Reade in 1993. Many more (49 percent) said they did not, and a smaller remainder (40 percent) said they were unsure. A majority of GOP respondents (53 percent) do believe Reade, with just a smattering (9 percent) saying her allegations are not true, and the rest (38 percent) not sure.
Notably, 62 percent of respondents who said they voted for Donald Trump in 2016 claim they believe Reade. Twenty-five women have accused the president of sexual misconduct, allegations he has denied.
Yet there seems to be little likelihood that, barring further revelations, the charges will stand in Biden’s way of becoming the Democratic standard-bearer. Almost a quarter of Democrats, 24 percent, and 29 percent of respondents overall, said they favored denying him the nomination, a not-insignificant fraction but far short of a majority. (Republicans, obviously, might have reason to prefer a weakened Democratic candidate.) A contested convention would be entirely unlikely barring a party insurrection, given Biden’s general popularity; it would be nearly impossible at a totally virtual convention.
Allegations of sexual assault haven’t hit Biden’s electability numbers — he is still leading Trump in head-to-head surveys 45 percent to 42 percent, though by a slightly lower margin than in late April, when he was leading by 5 points, 47 percent to 42 percent.
The Yahoo! News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,573 U.S. adult residents interviewed online between May 5-6, 2020. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S residents. The margin of error is approximately 3.1 percent.
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