Edward Clarke, Anna Klas, Morgana Lizzo-Wilson, Emily Kothe. Political Partisanship in Responses to Sexual Misconduct Allegations against Politicians

Society for Australasian Social Psychologists

Since the advent of #MeToo, the number of sexual misconduct allegations made against male politicians within the public sphere has markedly increased. However, polling indicates that political affiliation may influence the perceived legitimacy of these allegations, suggesting the possibility that this is a domain in which politically-motivated reasoning occurs. To examine this, we investigated whether participants’ political party affiliation would affect the perceived legitimacy of sexual misconduct allegations against partisan-aligned and non-aligned political candidates. Three hundred and forty one Democratic and Republican affiliates, recruited via Amazon MTurk, were randomly allocated to one of two conditions (Democratic and Republican male politician accused groups) where they read a fictitious news story describing a sexual misconduct allegation made by a junior female office worker against a male politician. They were then asked to rate the legitimacy of the allegation in the story. Findings indicate that Republican, but not Democratic, affiliates were more likely to perceive the sexual misconduct allegation against a nonaligned politician as more legitimate than the allegation against a partisan-aligned politician. Results of a second study, which examined the moderating effect of strength of expressive partisanship, will also be discussed.