Americans have complicated feelings on the 3-year-old #MeToo movement - and some still can't decide if it's been good for the country
- Harvey Weinstein was convicted of rape and sexual assault on Monday.
- Since the emergence of #MeToo, researchers have examined Americans' opinions on harassment in the workplace, how people define sexual assault and harassment, and the believability of victims that come forward.
- A recent Gallup survey found women are more likely to be concerned about sexual harassment in the workplace than men.
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On Monday, disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of rape and a criminal sexual act.
Since the emergence of the #MeToo movement in 2017, US survey data shows differences in attitudes towards sexual harassment and similar issues along lines of gender and political affiliation.
Weinstein's verdict came almost three years after the rise of #MeToo, a movement that brings awareness about issues of sexual harassment and assault. The movement has received a lot of traction on social media. According to Pew Research Center, the hashtag was shared over 19 million times in from October 2017 to September 2018 on Twitter.
While many Americans think that #MeToo has had an impact on the likelihood of people accused of sexual harassment being held accountable, there are still mixed views on whether harassment continues to be a major issue at work, what falls under the category of sexual harassment and assault, and if the movement has gone too far.
As more cases of harassment and assault have become public, a 2018 survey by market research company Ipsos and NPR found 69% of Americans believe the #MeToo movement has helped produce an environment where people accused of sexual assault or harassment will be held accountable. That view was held nearly equally across gender lines - women were only three percentage points less likely than men to respond with this opinion.
The Ipsos and NPR study surveyed over 1,000 Americans on their views on sexual harassment and assault. Although there has been a spike in the number of reported harassment cases to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since the start of #MeToo, about 43% of Americans think the movement "has gone too far" - but what exactly is considered "too far" was not defined in the survey.
When broken down by political affiliation, a striking 75% of Republicans, 21% of Democrats, and 43% of Independents believe that the movement has gone too far. There was also a stark split between sexes. 51% of men said the movement had gone too far, compared to just 36% of women - a 15 point difference.
According to NPR, in "follow-up conversations, several respondents cited a rush to judgment, the prospect of unproven accusations ruining peoples' careers or reputations, and a bandwagon effect that may prompt some to claim sexual misconduct for behavior that doesn't quite rise to that level."
Additionally, Americans are confused about what exactly is classified as sexual harassment or assault, according to the Ipsos/NPR study. More Republicans than Democrats - 56% and 39% respectively - find it difficult to know what is considered assault. Uncertainty about what is considered harassment was more common among Republicans, at 65%, but with just 39% of Democrats expressing uncertainty.
Even though it is sometimes hard for victims to come forward with allegations right away, the study found 40% of men believe allegations are "less relevant" if they are from years ago, almost double the percentage of women who believe this is the case.
The movement has affected interactions in the workplace as well, including between employees and their supervisors and between female and male coworkers. Nearly half of Americans believe the increase in awareness and news on harassment and assault "have made it harder for men to know how to interact with women in the workplace", according to a 2018 Pew Research Center of over 6,000 Americans.
The same study suggests Americans still have concerns and don't see much change being brought in the workplace even with the increased awareness of the issue through #MeToo. Roughly half of Americans said men getting away with harassment or assault at work was "a major problem" and about half of Americans also believe the increased awareness of work harassment or assault will not make "much difference" in work opportunities for women.
In general, women are more concerned about sexual harassment than men. According to a 2019 Gallup study, 70% of US women found workplace harassment a "major problem", while only 53% of US men viewed it as a major issue. Both those shares decreased since a 2017 survey where 73% of women and 66% of men viewed workplace harassment as a major problem.
The authors of the Gallup report noted that they are unsure why those shares declined, but it may be in part due to news coverage of sexual harassment and assault allegations. Gallup wrote that the 2017 survey came after the New York Times published a story on the allegations against Weinstein. One potential reason for the decrease in shares in 2019 could be because men might have become "desensitized" to the issue of sexual harassment and assault.