Herman Cain is still a leading contender for the Republican nomination in most recent polls, despite sexual harassment allegations that have been made public within the past several weeks. According to Real Clear Politics, aggregate polling has Cain virtually neck and neck with Mitt Romney as of November 10, based on averaged results compiled from several scientific polls. While it appears that the harassment allegations haven’t been a serious threat to Cain’s campaign, and may even have improved his name recognition, an NBC/Wall Street Journal national poll that consisted of re-contacted Republican primary voters indicates the mounting scandal may be negatively affecting Cain.
Herman Cain Harassment Claims: Poll Data
The NBC/WSJ poll was originally conducted from November 2 to November 5, and consisted of 102 likely Republican primary voters, 52 of whom were male and 48 of whom were female. The same group was given the same poll the following week, from November 10 to November 12. The difference between the results from these polls is worth noting, since it is considerable, even though the same respondents were polled with the same questions. While Cain was favored with 51 percent of the vote during the first round, Romney won 56 percent of the vote during the second canvas. When asked whether they were concerned about the sexual harassment allegations, 17 percent initially expressed either “a great deal” or “quite a bit” of concern, but the percentage of voters expressing concern increased to 28 percent when the question was repeated the following week.
Republican Polls Results Mixed
Despite these apparent changes in opinion, Cain’s likability rating improved slightly between the two polls, with 21 percent “very positive” and 30 percent “somewhat positive” for the first poll, and 30 percent “very positive” and 26 percent “somewhat positive” for the re-contacted poll. Romney saw a sharp increase in his “very positive” rating between the two polls, with 9 percent originally giving him such a rating, and 26 percent assigning it after being re-contacted. Romney’s “somewhat positive” rating shifted from 40 percent to 36 percent. Respondents were asked only during the re-contacted canvas whether they thought the sexual harassment allegations against Cain were true. Twenty-four percent believed the allegations were true, 43 percent did not believe they were true, 32 percent had no opinion and 1 percent was not sure.
Sharon Bialek, Sexual Harassment Claims
Several events occurred between November 5 and November 10 that may be associated with the changes in opinions of the Republican respondents. Although the Politico story that broke the harassment allegations was released October 30th, none of the accusers released their names or personal stories until November 7th, when Sharon Bialek held a press conference detailing her charge of harassment against Cain. Although Cain held a press conference on November 8th denying all charges, his accuser was also making media appearances during the time the second canvas was being conducted.
Interpreting the GOP Poll Results
Huffington Post columnist Sam Stein theorizes that Herman Cain has struggled for approval among Republican women, and that they are becoming even more disenfranchised with him given the recent harassment allegations. Stein states that Cain has always had trouble securing female donors, and cites a recent CBS News article that shows Cain in the lead for the GOP nomination, but indicates that his support among Republican women has dropped from 28 percent in October to 15 percent as of November 11. Although the NBC/WSJ poll did not have results divided by gender, the shift would seem reasonable when compared to the shift observed among women in the CBS poll, since it was reported that nearly half the NBC/WSJ respondents were women.
It is also observable that most of the NBC/WSJ respondents did not shift the degree to which they like Cain, and many did not believe the harassment allegations were true, or had no opinion on the matter. This indicates that there may be some concern among Republicans, despite his previously high poll numbers, of how Cain would be perceived as a candidate given the looming allegations. The allegations themselves, however, are not necessarily a deal-breaker for Republican primary voters.
Despite the conclusions that may be drawn from the NBC/WSJ poll, it was based off one small sample, so aggregate data should be relied upon for more scientific predictions. The most recent aggregate data available suggests Cain’s campaign is remaining strong despite the allegations. However, it takes time for multiple polls to be averaged, so the most recent aggregate figures available are based on polls conducted on or prior to November 10th.
Real Clear Politics. 2012 Republican Presidential Nomination. Accessed November 13, 2011.
NBC/Wall Street Journal Survey. Accessed November 13, 2011
International Business Times. Herman Cain Press Conference: A Full Timeline of the Harassment Allegations. Accessed November 13, 2011.
Stein, Sam. Herman Cain Losing Support of Women Voters After Sexual Harassment Allegations, Poll Shows. Huffington Post. Accessed November 13, 2011.
CBS News. Poll: Cain tops 3-way race with Romney, Gingrich. (November 11, 2011). Accessed November 14, 2011.
Decoding Science. One article at a time.