- 70% of women, 53% of men say workplace sexual harassment is major problem
- 61% of women, 46% of men think people are not sensitive enough to harassment
- 48% of women say they were sexually harassed, up six points since 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Seventeen months after the #Metoo movement exploded, U.S. men are less convinced than they were at the start of the movement that sexual harassment in the workplace is a major problem. They are also more likely to believe that people in the workplace are too sensitive to the problem of sexual harassment. Still, on both measures, men show more concern for the issue today than they did in 1998.
Majorities of Americans overall still agree that sexual harassment in the workplace is a major problem (62%) and that people in the workplace are not sensitive enough to it (54%), but fewer do so now than in October 2017. Since then, hundreds of high-profile men in the U.S. have been accused of sexual misconduct.
Currently, 53% of men say sexual harassment in the workplace is a major problem, down from 66% in 2017. Likewise, the 46% of men who now say people in the workplace aren't sensitive enough to sexual harassment is down, by eight percentage points. At the same time, the changes in women's views are not statistically significant.
Gallup first measured opinion on these two questions in March 1998 as President Bill Clinton was dealing with sexual harassment allegations from several women. At that point, half of Americans, including 55% of women and 45% of men, considered sexual harassment in the workplace to be a major problem. The figures for both men and women were much higher in 2017, in a poll conducted several weeks after a New York Times story detailed a string of sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. But as noted, since then, based on Gallup's Feb. 12-28 poll, men's concern has waned, while women's has not.
The poll does not shed any light on why men's views about sexual harassment may have changed since October 2017. During that time, a torrent of sexual misconduct allegations have been leveled against well-known men and widely covered in the media.
This preponderance of news coverage may have put men on the defensive. Or it may be that they had a strong reaction in the immediate wake of the Weinstein allegations and start of the #Metoo movement, but that they have become somewhat desensitized to the issue since then.
Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation hearings may have also been a factor (54% of Republican men, including independents who lean Republican, considered sexual harassment to be a major problem in 2017, but just 35% do now; there is no difference since 2017 in the views of Democratic men, including Democratic leaners). Or it may be something else entirely, but the decline in concern about sexual harassment has clearly been predominantly among men and, in particular, Republican men and men younger than 50.
Fifty-five percent of men aged 18-49 currently consider sexual harassment to be a major problem, a 16-point drop from 2017. The decline on the same measure among men 50 and older is 10 points. The differences among women on the same question are negligible.
|October 2017||February 2019||2017-2019 difference|
|Men younger than 50||71||55||-16|
|Men aged 50+||59||49||-10|
|Women younger than 50||74||72||-2|
|Women aged 50+||72||69||-3|
Self-Reports of Sexual Harassment Increase
In the same polls measuring public attitudes about the problem of sexual harassment, Gallup asked Americans whether they have experienced it personally. Women are four times as likely as men to say they have been sexually harassed.
Nearly half of all women today, 48%, say they have been sexually harassed, up from 42% in 2017. The #Metoo movement has been credited with emboldening women to talk about their experiences as victims of sexual misconduct.
|October 2017||February 2019||2017-2019 difference|
|Women younger than 50||41||49||+8|
|Women aged 50+||44||48||+4|
Less than a year and a half after the #Metoo movement took America by storm, men in the U.S. have become less likely to say that sexual harassment is a major problem in the workplace and that people in the workplace are not sensitive enough to it. Despite the overall declines on both measures since 2017, most Americans, including a majority of men, still think workplace sexual harassment is a major problem.
The #Metoo movement has raised awareness on the issue of sexual harassment, which U.S. women have felt especially profoundly. Gallup research found that a record-low 48% of U.S. women in 2018 said women are treated with respect and dignity in their country, a 14-point decline from 2017 and the lowest rating among 21 countries across Western Europe, as well as Canada. Likewise, there is a sharp gender divide in views that men are treated better than women in the U.S.
The "pink wave" that saw record numbers of women elected to Congress in 2018 doesn't negate the problems created by sexual harassment, but the increase in women running for office last year may be one outgrowth of the movement, and it certainly strengthens women's chances of addressing the problem through public policy.