The available polling suggests that older voters are less receptive than younger ones to taking these kinds of charges seriously. Older voters are more likely to express doubts about the #MeToo movement and whether the past actions of men should be disqualifying in the present. A Pew Research Center poll from last spring suggests that the older people are, the more likely they are to believe that the increased attention on sexual harassment has made navigating workplace interactions more difficult for men. A BuzzFeed/Ipsos poll from this past fall found a stark age gap when it comes to believing victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault: 65 percent of adults under 35 said they should be believed no matter what, compared to just 38 percent of people older than 54 who said the same thing. An NPR/Ipsos poll from last fall found that roughly half of voters 35 or older said they were still unclear on what crosses the line in terms of sexual misconduct. And a Vox/Morning Consult survey from last month found that women 35 or older were about half as likely as women under 35 to say it’s “acceptable” for some men to lose their jobs over allegations of sexual misconduct. If older voters have doubts about sexual misconduct, it stands to reason they’ll be even more skeptical of the gray area Biden finds himself in now.
And then there’s the backlash to consider, whereby some voters actually rally to Biden’s defense. Consider, for instance, the response from Theda Skocpol, a 71-year-old Harvard political scientist, who made it clear she has no interest in a circular firing squad with Donald Trump in the White House. “Is this the kind of society we want to live in—where right-wingers can do any vicious thing they want to anyone and shrug it off, while people on the center-left are supposed to expel from public life anyone who says a single wrong word or has done something benignly intended in the past that now does not fit changed norms?” she wrote in a letter to the Times. “Not me, that is not the kind of America I want to live in. That is not the kind of Democratic primary I want to participate in.”