Politicians Behaving Badly: Men, Women, and the Politics of Sexual Harassment, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Politicians Behaving Badly

Men, Women, and the Politics of Sexual Harassment, 1st Edition

By Paulina S. Cossette, Stephen C. Craig


184 pages | 25 B/W Illus.

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History tells us that elected leaders tainted by scandal often pay a political price for their questionable behavior. Some prior research suggests that, on average, the impact of economic scandal (e.g., misuse of public funds) is more damaging than that of sexual misbehavior (e.g., extramarital affairs). But we are currently in an era in which allegations of sexual misbehavior have taken center stage – and the focus today is less on issues of morality than on allegations of sexual harassment and assault broadly defined.

Especially since 2016, such allegations have engulfed a large and growing number of political figures. Many were forced to resign their positions, while others chose to end their campaigns for election or re-election. With the rise of the #MeToo movement and related grassroots efforts to address the problem of sexual harassment, the issue seems likely to play an important role in the 2020 elections and beyond.

This book employs data from an internet-based survey (based on a national sample of roughly 1300 registered voters) to examine citizens' attitudes about sexual harassment, and the extent to which those attitudes shape their voting preferences. With an innovative experimental design, the authors assess whether those attitudes and preferences vary with the target candidate's partisan affiliation (Republican or Democrat); gender (male or female); and response to the allegations (denial, apology, or with some sort of counterframe as defined in the book). Appropriate for students, scholars, and general readers alike, this book offers a timely analysis of an important political issue.


"What explains voters' willingness to reelect some politicians facing allegations of sexual harassment, while punishing others at the polls? In Politicians Behaving Badly, Cossette and Craig leverage compelling evidence from original survey data—including a novel survey experiment—to offer nuanced insights into this pressing question." Tiffany D. Barnes, University of Kentucky

"Timely, incisive, and creative, Politicians Behaving Badly is a welcome addition to the study of sex, power, and politics. Run, do not walk, to read and assign this book." Jane Junn, University of Southern California

"Cossette and Craig have put together a piece of research that places them on the ground floor of what is sure to be a growing body of inquiry. Sexual harassment has been front and center on the public stage recently. Yet, research has not had the time to catch up. This book does exactly that; it catches us up. Not only do they give us a peek into public opinion surrounding this issue, but by using experimental data, they give us a sense of the political consequences. This book will certainly become foundational to our understanding of the politics of sexual harassment." —Jason Gainous, Co-author of Tweeting to Power

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Politicians and Many Others Behaving Badly

Chapter 2: The Political Cost of Scandal

Chapter 3: Surviving Scandal (Or Not): Image Repair

Chapter 4: Sexism and Sexual Harassment in the #MeToo Era

Chapter 5: The Political Costs of Harassment: An Empirical Test

Chapter 6: The Politics of Sexual Harassment: Unanswered Questions

About the Authors

Paulina S. Cossette (Ph.D. University of Florida) was most recently Assistant Professor of Political Science at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. Her research interests include the U.S. Congress, political parties and polarization, and campaigns and elections. She served as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow for 2014-2015 and is currently writing a book on bipartisan collaboration in the U.S. House and Senate.

Stephen C. Craig (Ph.D. Northwestern University) is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Graduate Program in Political Campaigning at the University of Florida. He is author of The Malevolent Leaders: Popular Discontent in America, editor or co-editor of five books including The Electoral Challenge: Theory Meets Practice, and has published numerous articles and book chapters dealing with attitude measurement, campaign effects, and various other aspects of contemporary public opinion and political behavior in the United States.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Process / Elections
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Women in Politics