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Vast majority of Democratic voters support due process for accused students

There appears to be a wide rift between federal Democratic lawmakers and the voters who put them in office on the question of investigating campus sexual assault.

In contrast to two thirds of Senate Democrats, who denounced Education Secretary Betsy DeVos* for rescinding previous Title IX guidance that gave short shrift to due process, two thirds of Democratic voters believe students accused of “crimes” should receive “the same civil liberties protections” in campus proceedings as they do in courts.

The YouGov survey commissioned by the Bucknell University Institute for Public Policy was conducted in mid-summer, before Education Secretary Betsy DeVos* announced three weeks ago the guidance would be rescinded and released interim guidance last week.


Though both self-identified Republicans and independents supported common due process protections at higher rates, the gaps between them and Democrats were all under 15 percentage points.

Strong majorities of Democrats believe students accused of sexual assault “should have the right to know the charges against them before being called to defend themselves” (80 percent) and punished only if there is “clear and convincing evidence that they are guilty of a crime” (67 percent).

Even a majority (58 percent) believe accused students should have the right to cross-examine their accusers.

The smallest gap was on the question of who should handle reports of campus sexual assault. Democrats (65 percent), Republicans (67 percent) and independents (72 percent) believe they should be “primarily handled” by state or local police.

The rescinded guidance did not require colleges to provide specific allegations behind charges, which cripples any possible defense for an accused student, and it ordered colleges on penalty of losing federal funding to adopt the low “preponderance” evidence standard (sometimes known as “50 percent plus a feather”).

Interim guidelines allow colleges to use the “clear and convincing” standard (about 75 percent certainty) in addition to preponderance, and instructs them to provide “the precise conduct” and “time and location” that underlie the charges.

Democrats, however, are the exact opposite of Republicans when it comes to support for a campus system “designed to protect victims” at the expense of the innocent (56 percent), as opposed to “legal protections for accused students” at the expense of unpunished crimes (44 percent).

Brooklyn College Prof. KC Johnson, co-author of The Campus Rape Frenzy, summarized the results in a tweet conversation.


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