Prof. Costa's article on "How partisanship and sexism influence voters' reactions to political #MeToo scandals"

Influential theories of motivated reasoning, as well as real-world anecdotal examples, would suggest that voters do not always penalize legislators from their own party for alleged immoral behavior, such as sexual harassment. But very little empirical evidence exists on how voters react to sexual misconduct allegations, especially since the start of the #MeToo movement. We examine how partisanship and sexist attitudes shape individuals' reactions to sexual harassment allegations about a politician. Using a pretest–posttest online experiment, we randomize both the party affiliation of the accused legislator as well as the severity of the allegations. Overall, we find some evidence of partisan bias, but that there may be a limit. Subjects were more forgiving of an accused co-partisan legislator than a legislator of the opposing party in their overall evaluation and their perceptions of punitive repercussions, but their levels of electoral support decreased just as much for co-partisans as they did for opposing partisans. Importantly, these reactions are strongly conditioned by sexism; as subjects' levels of sexism increase, the otherwise large and negative effect of allegations on evaluations of favorability and electoral support disappears. Read more here.