Moderating effect of partisanship on personal experience with sexual harassment and gender discrimination on the evaluation of political figures

March 2021
Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties

Sexual harassment and gender discrimination have become more salient in U.S. politics in recent years due, in part, to the #MeToo movement. We conducted two surveys on Californians in the 2018 primary and general election. We find that experiencing either of these types of interactions shaped how Independent voters evaluated political figures but had a smaller effect on Democratic and Republican party identifiers. On average, experiencing gender discrimination has stronger effects on the evaluation of political figures than sexual harassment. Both experiences played out differently for Independent men and Independent women. The boost in female support for Democratic candidates was counterbalanced by a backlash vote from Independent men who reported they experienced gender discrimination, aiding the President and hurting Democratic political figures. This suggests that the pro-Kavanaugh backlash had deeper roots in male resentment towards the perceived preferential treatment of women, especially in work environments.