08/25/2014 07:32 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Americans Want Government More Active In Campus Sexual Assault Investigations

Americans support a more active role for the federal government in investigating how colleges and universities handle sexual assault, but are divided on whether there should be new laws dealing with campus sexual assault, a HuffPost/YouGov poll found.

An overwhelming majority of poll respondents, 72 percent, said the U.S. Department of Education should take a very active or somewhat active role in investigating how individual colleges and universities deal with sexual assault. Another 10 percent said the Department of Education should not play a very active role, while 11 percent said it should play no role at all.

Sexual assault on college and university campuses received renewed attention in May, when the Education Department for the first time named colleges and universities it is investigating for alleged violations of the gender equity law Title IX for their handling of sexual assault. The list named 55 colleges and universities, and created an outcry that set the stage for a number of proposals in Congress to increase accountability for schools that mishandle sexual assault investigations.

Support for more federal involvement in sexual assault investigations included Americans of all political parties. But the strength of that support varied dramatically along party lines. Eighty-seven percent of Democrats said the U.S. Department of Education should play a very or somewhat active role in investigating individual colleges, compared with 54 percent of Republicans. Only 3 percent of Democrats said the Department of Education should play no role in these investigations, while 22 percent of Republicans did.

Americans were not nearly as supportive of passing new federal laws to deal with campus sexual assault. Forty percent said new legislation is necessary, compared with 33 percent who said it isn't.

Men and women were somewhat divided on the issue, with 46 percent of women saying new legislation is necessary, compared with 33 percent of men. Only 24 percent of women said new laws aren't needed, while 43 percent of men did.

Americans were more supportive of specific legislative proposals.

One measure, proposed by a bipartisan group of eight senators, would require the Education Department to administer an anonymous survey to students about their experiences with sexual assault on campus.

The poll found 68 percent support surveying students and publishing the results for each school online. Only 19 percent of respondents expressed opposition.

The Senate bill, along with a similar bipartisan House bill, would increase fines for colleges and universities that violate federal campus safety laws.

Americans broadly support fining colleges and universities that fail to comply with federal campus safety regulations. Sixty-nine percent said they would support legislation to fine schools, and 20 percent were opposed.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Aug. 8 to Aug. 11 among 1,000 U.S. adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov's nationally representative opinion polling. Data from all HuffPost/YouGov polls can be found here.



40 Powerful Images Of Surviving Sexual Assault