Accusations Starting To Hurt Cain In The Polls

Polls are starting to show signs that the sexual harassment allegations are starting to hurt Herman Cain.

In the ten days since the sexual harassment allegations against Herman Cain were first leveled, Cain’s support in the horse race for the GOP nomination doesn’t seem to have slipped all that much. He still holds a slight lead over Mitt Romney according to the RealClearPolitics poll average, although there are understandable differences between some of the polls based on sampling differences. In all of these polls, taken before the allegations made by Sharon Bilek became public seem to show that GOP voters don’t think that the charges amount to very much: 

In a series of polls taken since Politicofirst reported on two anonymous allegations on Oct. 30, most Republican respondents have said they think the charges are false:

  • An Oct. 31 – Nov. 3 ABC/Washington Post poll found that 55 percent of Republicans didn’t think the allegations are a serious matter, while 39 percent did
  • A Nov. 2-5 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 28 percent of Republicans said they had some “concern … about voting for Herman Cain based on these allegations,” while 54 percent said they had no concerns at all
  • A Nov. 2-6 USA Today/Gallup poll found that 53 percent of Republicans are inclined to believe the allegations are not true, while 35 percent are inclined to believe they are.
  • A Nov. 3-6 Pew Research Center poll found that 39 percent of Republicans thought the allegations were false, 29 percent thought they were true, and a whopping 32 percent said they didn’t know or refused to answer

Cain has remained at the top of the race, sharing front-runner status with Mitt Romney: Three of the above polls showed the two candidates in a statistical tie for first place.

Even in those polls, though, The Atlantic’s Chris Good finds signs of trouble for the pizza man:

Perhaps more troubling for Cain is that poll respondents are viewing him less positively than before. Since well before he became a nationally known political figure, Cain’s campaign has looked promising because his positivity ratings have been high. Few people knew who he was, but people liked him — a lot.

Now, his numbers are starting to slip. NBC/Wall Street Journal found eight percent of Cain’s “very positive” rating seemingly migrating to “somewhat positive,” the former dropping from 28 percent to 20 percent (still the highest rating in the GOP field).

In the first post-Bilek poll to come out, though, there are already signs that the introduction of a woman making accusations in person, rather than anonymous sources in a news report, may be changing how the public views Herman Cain:

Most voters now say that the sexual harassment allegations made against Herman Cain may be both serious and true. At the same time, two-thirds believe Cain’s ethics are at least as good as most politicians. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 51% of voters nationwide say it is at least somewhat likely the allegations against Cain are both serious and true.

This is a Rasmussen poll, so the usual caveats apply. Nonetheless, it seems consistent with a new Gallup poll that seems to show some slippage in the public’s previously positive image of him:

Herman Cain’s image among Republicans is starting to get worse amid claims that he sexually harassed several women in the 1990s. His latest Positive Intensity Score, based on Oct. 24-Nov. 6 Gallup Daily tracking, is 25. However, across the two weeks that make up that average, his score was 29 in interviewing conducted Oct. 24-30, before the news broke, and 20 in the days since.

A USA Today/Gallup poll conducted this past weekend found most Republicans believing sexual harassment charges against Cain were probably untrue, and he remains a co-leader in national Republicans’ nomination preferences. Since then, on Monday, a fourth woman and the first to speak publicly, alleged that Cain sexually harassed her while he was head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s. Cain insists the charges are false.

While Cain’s position on the ballot suggests his campaign is not collapsing under the weight of the allegations, they are beginning to take a toll on his image. Cain’s Positive Intensity Score surged to a high of 34 a few weeks ago, but now is nearly 10 points lower. It is likely to decline further at least into the low 20s unless his score in this week’s interviewing rebounds to pre-allegation levels.

The chart tells it all:

As a man with no public record and obvious gaps in his knowledge, the biggest thing that Herman Cain has going for him right now is the fact that the Republican selectorate likes him and the people who support him are very enthusiastic about his candidacy. If that starts to slip, then Cain has nothing to fall back on and I would expect to see his p0ll numbers at the national and state level start to slip as likely voters start looking for other candidates. In the end, it’s inevitable that number would slip even if these allegations didn’t come out, though. Most of Cain’s appeal has been his “new-ness” and the fact that he isn’t like the other candidates. With the passage of time, that novelty starts to wear off and some of the initial enthusiastic support wanes. It’s something that has happened to pretty much every Presidential candidate at some point, it even happened to Barack Obama during the course of his 2008 knock-down-drag-out with Hillary Clinton. The difference is that Obama had more to his appeal to Democratic voters than novelty, Cain doesn’t. However this sexual harassment story plays out, and I don’t expect to end any time soon given that we’re now hearing about the possibility of a joint press conference with all of Cain’s accusers in attendance, it seems that it’s inevitable that it’s only going to chip away further at Cain’s appeal. Who that helps is another question.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. This has/will definitely chip away at a bit of Cain’s support. However, a good chunk of the primary electorate is already fairly invested in him. This definitely doesn’t help, especially since it won’t go away, probably even if he actually took a lie detector test. For a relatively unknown candidate to hold up this well with this many allegations speaks to how well he has resonated with voters who haven’t known him for a long time. For some voters, Cain is impervious to anything, but we don’t know yet if those are enough voters to nominate him (probably not enough by themselves).

    Eventually, it will come down to a contest between Cain’s charisma and Gingrich’s knowledge to see who gets to face off against Romney in the finals. Perry should be very concerned that Cain’s stumbles haven’t led to a spike for him.

    The debates this week are crucial for the candidates who want to take Cain’s place.

  2. Barb Hartwell says:

    Cain hurts himself first by denying then lying. He said he would take a polygraph to prove himself innocent if he needed to. So why didn`t he take that test when he was accused years ago. He would have saved himself a lot of money and he would not be defending himself now.

  3. matt b says:

    A brief request/challenge for our conservative friends/Cain supporters responding to this topic:

    Rather than kvetching about the “liberal media” going after Cain (let’s just assume you think this to be true), can any of you build a serious argument to support Cain’s claim that this is all about the Democratic party going after him? Please be sure to address why it doesn’t make more sense that this is the work of another Republican candidates who stand to gain the most — at this particular moment, versus some future moment — if Cain implodes?

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    This all comes down to “who are you going to believe”? Cain’s accusers have yet to be caught in any lies – the same can’t be said for the Cain campaign.

  5. Ron Beasley says:

    @matt b: If I had to place a bet it would still be on Karl Rove.

  6. Moosebreath says:

    Appending onto Matt B’s comment, please also be sure to explain why Cain originally accused the Perry campaign of instigating this.

  7. Wayne says:

    The polls’ results are not unexpected. However now the accusers checker pasts and their history of making accusations of are coming out, things will change.

    As I told a friend, it will take approximately two weeks to see how much it initially hurts him and more than a month to see if it sticks. If the accuser are shown to be phonies which is happening than the resulting backlash won’t be felt for a 1 to 1.5 months. It will probably be the later since the MSM will try to squash it but fortunately they don’t have control of information like they use to.

  8. PD Shaw says:

    The Gallup poll also indicated only about a half of Republicans were following this story as of last week. That leaves a lot of room for views to change.

  9. mantis says:

    If the accuser are shown to be phonies which is happening

    In your mind, maybe.

  10. grumpy realist says:

    Given the muck that has been thrown by Cain’s defenders at the women who have named themselves, are people surprised that so few women report sexual harassment?

  11. michael reynolds says:

    I’d say he’s toast but he was never really bread to begin with. He was son-of-Trump, a novelty candidate.

  12. Accusations Starting To Hurt Cain In The Polls

    Of course, that only menas that accusations will continue to to fly gainst anyone who dares challenge our rulers.

  13. G.A.Phillips says:

    Accusations Starting To Hurt Cain In The Polls

    And some could say that this half a$$ed phantom Lynching is helping Him…..

    Give it up to the libs when it comes to bloodthirsty mob innovations…

  14. G.A.Phillips says:

    Poop, I forgot my Harry painting…lol, My troll pic needs some aviators…..

  15. jan says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Given the muck that has been thrown by Cain’s defenders at the women who have named themselves, are people surprised that so few women report sexual harassment?

    Do you mean like this ABC news story indicating a possible pattern of behavior in filing more than one complaint dealing with an employee reporting sexual hassles in another workplace setting?

    Karen Kraushaar, who settled a sexual harassment complaint against Republican presidential frontrunner Herman Cain in 1999, filed a different complaint at her next job four years later, accusing a manager of sending out a sexually suggestive email and asking to be allowed to work at home after a car accident.

  16. PD Shaw says:

    No, more like getting called an ugly bitch.

    See, Herman Cain couldn’t have sexually harassed a woman who’s ugly.
    Herman Cain couldn’t have sexually harassed a woman with financial problems.
    Herman Cain couldn’t have sexually harassed a woman with a child out of wedlock.
    Herman Cain couldn’t have sexually harassed a woman whose complained about being sexually harassed before.

    Its all ad hominen arguments.

  17. matt b says:

    @charles austin:

    Of course, that only menas that accusations will continue to to fly gainst anyone who dares challenge our rulers.

    So… wait… is Perry, Romney, Rove, or Gingrich is our ruler?

    Or … gasp!… has Bachmann been pulling the strings all this while?

    Or… bigger gasp! Chuck does this mean that — given the HUGE amount of accusations thrown in the direction of Obama — you are now of the opinion that he was challenging our rulers too? That sure explains why folks have worked so hard to set him up as un/anti-American (you know the entire birth certificate thing, and Rev. Wright, and all the other crap that Conservatives still seem to think is either true or going to help them win at the polls).

  18. G.A.Phillips says:

    That sure explains why folks have worked so hard to set him up as un/anti-American


  19. @matt b: Strange, I didn’t say Obama, but your obsessions are duly noted. I think the ruling class of Republicans and Democrats are the problem. It would be nice to see a real opposition party in this country, someone who still believed in limited government with enumerated powers.

  20. matt b says:

    @charles austin:

    Strange, I didn’t say Obama, but your obsessions are duly noted.

    Actually you simply suggested that those who are subject to such accusations are clearly enemys of the ruling structures. So I thought it’s worth considering another politician whose been through quite a bit in terms of “accusations.”

    But Chuck(les) my friend, first of all, welcome back. We’ve missed your well though out and insightful takes on issues these last few months.

    Second, good luck with the Cain anti-establishmentarian thing. It makes me happy to see you’ve found candidate whose positions are as serious and well thought out as your usual posts. I just hope you stick to your “a pox on both your parties” stand point next November — I don’t know if I could sleep easily knowing that you chose to contradict those principles and vote for the member of the “republican ruling class” who ends up winning the nomination.


    Looks to me like hes a predator of unfortunate women, which makes him more of a sleeze..not less. IRONCLAD confidentiality agreement? WHY?? Cause this blearyeyed old man is so attractive?? He has the eyes of a longtime drunk, too big for his own huge ego. No respect for women! Number 5 woman, cant be disputed. How many do deniers need?? Threatens the rest who might come forward??? If hes not guilty, Id be surprised. In any case, His idea of Govt. Is to PARROT Obama strategies, and obviously thinks our Warships move through SAND.. to their targets! BEFORE ANY OF THIS HAPPENED.. HE WAS NOT COMPETENT ENOUGH FOR THE JOB!!
    Hes a CON……Who needs to move on.


    Men that PREY on unfortunate needy women, do so because they are sure, if they get caught.. they can get away with it. The woman are of course discredited, simply by being needy. THAT DOESNT MEAN HES NOT GUILTY. It also doesnt change, how he treated these women. IF its true. When I hear him speak? I hear a HUGE arrogant liar. Just my take on it.