Public Opinion Polls

Numerous public opinion polls reveal that Americans believe felony-level sexual assault crimes preferably should be handled by the criminal justice system, and that accused students should enjoy the full range of due process protections. The four national surveys are presented first, followed by state-level surveys in Virginia and California:

NATIONAL

1. A Rasmussen poll conducted in September 2017 found that 73% of American adults agree with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s statement, “Every survivor of sexual misconduct must be taken seriously. Every student accused of sexual misconduct must know that guilt is not predetermined.” Six per cent disagree, and 20% are not sure how they feel about her statement.

Americans are split, however, on whether sexual assault on campus is an area that the federal government should be involved:

  • Yes: 47%
  • No: 40%
  • Not sure: 13%

2. A poll by the Bucknell Institute for Public Policy conducted July 25-August 1, 2017 of 1,200 persons reported these results:

Percent of respondents who agreed:

  • Students accused of crimes on college campuses should receive the same civil liberties protections from their colleges that they receive in the court system: 67%
  • Students accused of sexual assault on college campuses should have the right to cross-examine their accusers: 61%
  • Students accused of sexual assault on college campuses should be punished only if there is clear and convincing evidence that they are guilty of a crime: 71%
  • Students accused of sexual assault on college campuses should have the right to know the charges against them before being called to defend themselves: 81%
  • Allegations of sexual assault on campus should be primarily handled by the state or local police: 69%

3. A national survey of likely voters by Penn Schoen Berland conducted in February 2015 on whether the justice system or colleges should be primarily responsible for adjudicating sexual misconduct or assault cases reported these findings:

4. The Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a national survey on March 15, 2015 among a representative sample of U.S. adults (Question 33):

  • Which of the following comes closer to your view: (As a serious crime, sexual assault complaints should only be investigated by the police) or (As an issue regarding student conduct, it is appropriate for colleges to investigate sexual assault cases)?:
    • Police: 60%
    • Colleges: 30%
    • Depends: 5%
    • No opinion: 4%

STATE-LEVEL:

1. A 2015 Newport University poll of 1,062 registered voters in Virginia found 90% of respondents said that colleges should be required to report sexual assault allegations to police, while only 7% of respondents believed colleges should handle these cases:

2. SAVE survey of 400 California voters conducted in December 2016. The survey was administered to persons with landline telephones, and therefore cannot be considered representative of all voters in that state:

1. How big of a problem, if at all, do you think sexual assault is on college campuses today?

  • Big problem: 69.4%
  • Small problem: 16.2%
  • Not much of a problem: 14.4%

2. Which of the following comes closer to your view: As a serious crime, sexual assault complaints should only be investigated by police; or as an issue regarding student conduct, is it appropriate for colleges to investigate sexual assault cases?

  • Police: 68.5%
  • Colleges: 31.5%

3. Once the investigation is completed, who should make the determination of innocence or guilt: the criminal justice system or the campus disciplinary committee?

  • Criminal justice: 89.1%
  • Campus disciplinary: 10.9%

4. How big of a problem, if at all, are false allegations of sexual assault on campus?

  • Big problem: 44.0%
  • Small problem: 41.6%
  • Not much of a problem: 14.4%

5. What is your party affiliation?

  • Democrat: 43.8%
  • Republican: 30.0%
  • Independent: 26.2%

6. What is your gender?

  • Male: 36.9%
  • Female: 63.1%

7. How old are you?

  • 30 years or under: 3.7%
  • 31 to 50 years: 13.9%
  • 51 years or older: 82.5%