Presidential candidate Joe Biden has a pattern of questionable behavior toward women. His reputation is so robust, the incidents so well-documented that they have earned him the longtime nickname of “Uncle Joe” (for his penchant for using folksy, grandfatherly language even with his peers), with the occasional addition of “Creepy” (for routinely invading women’s personal spaces).
Since announcing his campaign in April, Biden has done the following: aggressively held the hands of a young Sunrise Movement activist he was arguing with; called a female moderator who challenged him “sweetheart”; referred to Senator Kamala Harris as “kid” on national television; and told a 10-year old girl that she was “good looking.” One month before that, former Nevada lieutenant governor candidate Lucy Flores wrote an essay about her experience with Biden in 2014, claiming he put his hands on her shoulders, sniffed her hair, and kissed the back of her head at a campaign event. A steady stream of similar stories came out afterward, of women who said Biden had kissed them on the lips, snuggled them, and whispered closely in their ears in a way that left them feeling uncomfortable. (Biden has denied acting inappropriately.)
But Biden supporters and pundits who think he’ll successfully appeal to a more “moderate” democratic base continue to argue that he is our greatest hope of beating abuser-in-chief Donald Trump. In doing so, they always, always bring up “the polls”; Biden continues to eke out ahead of Trump (and I do mean eke) in the surveys that determine so much of our national conversation surrounding the presidential race. For some people, it seems these numbers assuage any worry that Biden’s conduct might alienate certain voters, and are used to bolster the idea that most people don’t find it all that objectionable.
How much does behavior like this really matter to voters? We wanted to find out. U.K.-based market research and data analytics firm YouGov conducted an official online poll of over 1,200 people, weighted to represent U.S. adults, to try and find out what the hell people — not just us, and not just women — really think about things like sniffing a woman’s hair in a professional context. As it turns out, they really don’t like it.
A whopping 77 percent of those polled think it is completely unacceptable for a male political candidate to come up behind a woman to sniff her hair. And despite the narrative that older Americans are more likely to excuse behavior like this, 85 percent of Baby Boomers said they think it is completely unacceptable. That’s 15 percent more than millennials.
What about referring to young female candidates or moderators as “sweethearts”? People are a little more mixed here, torn between deciding the behavior is completely unacceptable (56 percent) and somewhat unacceptable (20 percent), though 76 percent in total don’t find “sweetheart” acceptable. And as for referring to a young female constituent as “good-looking,” more than half of people responded that it was unacceptable.
See the handy tables below for these results, perfect for you to print out and take home for the holidays.