In September 2018, Christine Blasey Ford took to the Senate floor to recount her sexual assault allegations against then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. For many, it marked a defining moment in the fight to end sexual harassment and assault. And (thankfully), the Kavanaugh hearings and his subsequent Supreme Court confirmation renewed conversations surrounding sexism and consent. But now, a new study seems to reveal something unsettling about the hearings: They may have made Republican men more sexist.
PerryUndem, a nonpartisan research firm, surveyed 1,319 voters in December 2018, asking them for their opinions of Kavanaugh, sexism, and gender equality. Overall, the firm found that the majority of respondents believed Ford, and also that the hearings made voters reflect on gender inequality.
But something interesting happened when they looked at Republican men specifically: The survey found that 68% of Republican men agreed that “most women interpret innocent remarks or acts as being sexist”—even though, in 2017, only 47% felt the same way. In addition, only 45% of Republican men said that sexism was a problem in American society, down from 63% in 2017. Their attitudes toward women making sexual assault claims was also markedly different from 2017. At the time, 80% of Republican men said that they were more likely to support the woman making an accusation than the man being accused, but in PerryUndem’s December survey, that number had fallen to 59%.
Republican men were also way more likely to feel unfavorable toward the #MeToo movement than the rest of respondents (62% vs. 29%) and were less likely to believe that Kavanaugh lied under oath (18% vs. 57%).
These results paint a pretty bleak picture, but PerryUndem notes that Republicans are the only demographic to hold negative views of #MeToo after the Kavanaugh hearings. The firm also points out that, although respondents predicted women would have a harder time being believed post-Kavanaugh, “large majorities of the electorate are still more likely to believe women’s allegations of sexual harassment and assault than men’s denials.” That’s a promising sign for survivors. Additionally, the hearings caused about a third of parents to talk with their children about sexual assault and consent as well.
While it’s depressing to think that a subsection of the population is regressing, we’re cautiously optimistic that the majority of people do, in fact, want to see positive and meaningful social change on these issues.