POLITICS
10/06/2014 02:49 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Most Americans Support 'Yes Means Yes' Sexual Consent Rule

Most Americans think there's a problem with campus sexual assault, and nearly six in 10 approve of a California law intended to combat it, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll.

Americans are nearly four times as likely to say that colleges and universities do a bad job than they are to say they do a good job of handling cases of rape, sexual assault or harassment. Just 13 percent rate schools' efforts positively, effectively unchanged from a poll taken earlier this year.

Fifty-nine percent support California's new "yes mean yes" law, which was signed into law in late September by Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) The law goes beyond the refrain "no means no" by requiring "an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity." Just 21 percent disapprove of the law.

Women's groups and advocates for assault victims, who supported the change, say it will help educate students that silence isn't the same thing as consent. The law also requires new training for college faculty on how complaints should be reviewed.

Both genders are equally likely to say campuses do a poor job of handling sexual assault, but the survey finds divides along gender lines on how often justice is served for victims, and on who holds more responsibility for determining whether sex is consensual.

Sixty-two percent of women and 41 percent of men believe it's more common for rapists to go free because people don't believe the accuser than it is for people to be accused falsely of rape. Men are 9 points more likely than women to say false accusations are more common, and 12 points more likely to say they aren't sure.

Men, however, were more likely than women to say that whoever initiates a sexual encounter has the responsibility to make sure the other person consents, while women were about equally likely to say the person not initiating has the responsibility to make it clear whether they consent.

Among men, 49 percent say the responsibility for establishing consent lies with the person initiating, and 36 percent that it lies with the other person. Among women, 43 percent put the onus on the person initiating, and 45 percent on the other person.

A study by the National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women shows just how rare false accusations are, estimating that just 2 to 8 percent of reports are false. In contrast, Department of Justice-funded research found that only about one-third of rapes or fewer are ever prosecuted.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Sept. 30-Oct.1 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.

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