Authors: Jeanette Torres
(NEW YORK) -- Views that sexual harassment charges against Herman Cain are a “serious matter” have soared since two of his accusers went public, his unfavorable ratings have jumped and a plurality of Americans -- especially women -- are inclined to believe the allegations, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.
The findings mark a dramatic challenge to Cain’s candidacy. Results a week-and-a-half ago found him showing initial resilience against news of the charges. But as two women have come forward, doubts have risen. Americans by an 11-point margin -- 44 percent to 33 percent -- say they’re inclined to believe Cain’s accusers over his denials.
The most dramatic change is a jump among potential Republican voters who see the matter as a serious one. Thirty-nine percent said so the week before last; that’s rocketed to 61 percent now. It inches slightly higher, to 69 percent, among all Americans.
Compared with a month ago, unfavorable views of Cain have soared by 17 points, including by 19 points among Republicans. From essentially an even split in mid-October, more Americans now see Cain unfavorably than favorably by 44 percent to 29 percent.
Another key challenge for Cain in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, is a sharp gender gap across results. Leaned Republican women, for example, are nearly twice as likely as men to say the allegations make them less likely to support Cain, 34 percent vs. 19 percent.
Leaned GOP women also show the sharpest increase in views that it’s a serious matter -- up by a vast 31 points, from 40 percent on Nov. 3 to 71 percent now. Far fewer leaned Republican men, 52 percent, call it a serious matter, and that’s risen by just 14 points.
There are gender gaps in believability, as well. Among all adults, men divide evenly on whom they tend to believe. But women, by a wide 50-29 percent, say they’re more apt to believe those who’ve made charges against Cain than to side with his denials.
Leaned Republican women, likewise, are more disposed than are GOP men to believe Cain’s accusers. Forty percent of these women do so, vs. just 22 percent of leaned Republican men.
One result, though, has not changed: About two-thirds of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say the issue won’t affect their decision whether to support Cain for the presidential nomination. Still, about a quarter say it makes them less likely to back him.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio