- 69% in U.S. say sexual harassment is a major problem, up from 50% in 1998
- In a reversal, majority now say people are not sensitive enough to the issue
- About four in 10 women say they've been a victim of sexual harassment
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Amid a barrage of news about sexual harassment in Hollywood and elsewhere, more Americans today consider sexual harassment in the workplace a major problem than did so two decades ago. Currently, 69% of U.S. adults, up from 50% in 1998, describe this type of harassment as a major problem. Women and men are about equally likely to take it this seriously -- 73% vs. 66%, respectively.
|Major problem||Minor problem||Not a problem (vol.)||No opinion|
|2017 Oct 30-31||69||26||1||4|
|1998 Mar 20-22||50||43||1||6|
|2017 Oct 30-31||73||23||1||3|
|1998 Mar 20-22||55||40||1||4|
|2017 Oct 30-31||66||28||1||5|
|1998 Mar 20-22||45||47||1||8|
|(vol.) = volunteered response|
Attitudes Have Flipped About Sensitivity to Sexual Harassment Problem
Since 1998, Americans' opinions about people's level of sensitivity to the problem of sexual harassment have completely reversed. The majority of U.S. adults (59%) now say people in the workplace are not sensitive enough to this type of harassment, whereas in 1998 the majority (53%) said people were too sensitive.
Women are more skeptical than men about workplace harassment being taken seriously. Currently, 63% of women and 54% of men say people are not sensitive enough to the problem. However, both figures are up more than 20 percentage points since 1998.
|Too sensitive||Not sensitive enough||About right (vol.)||No opinion|
|2017 Oct 30-31||30||59||3||8|
|1998 Mar 20-22||53||37||4||6|
|2017 Oct 30-31||28||63||2||6|
|1998 Mar 20-22||48||40||5||7|
|2017 Oct 30-31||33||54||4||9|
|1998 Mar 20-22||59||32||4||5|
|(vol.) = volunteered response|
Gallup conducted its March 1998 poll as a sexual harassment lawsuit against then-President Bill Clinton (by former Arkansas state employee Paula Jones) was heading to trial, although the case was later dismissed. The poll asked Americans about that lawsuit -- as well as about the Monica Lewinsky affair, and about allegations made by another woman, Kathleen Willey. It is unclear as to what extent, if any, those questions influenced Americans' more general views of the problem of sexual harassment. It is possible that some who said people in the workplace were too sensitive about sexual harassment were thinking of Clinton's situation as they answered.
The latest findings are based on Gallup polling conducted Oct. 30-31, nearly a month after The New York Times published a report detailing sexual abuse allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Since then, scores of women, as well as men, have come forward to talk about their negative experiences with other major figures in the film and news media industries, in addition to Weinstein.
Will More Women Sue?
The Weinstein revelations have inspired a social media campaign encouraging people to comment or post #MeToo if they have ever been sexually harassed or victimized. While millions have participated, the greater test of social change will be whether more victims start to hold their abusers legally accountable.
Notably, a much higher percentage of women today (38%) than in 1998 (18%) say recent news events about sexual harassment have made them more likely to sue someone they believe had sexually harassed them. Just 14% of women say recent news events have made them less likely to do so, while 44% say their likelihood hasn't changed.
In 1998, by contrast, more women said they were less likely (29%) rather than more likely (18%) to take legal action as a result of what was then in the news dealing with sexual harassment. Although Clinton was the primary subject of this news, both Republican and Democratic women tended to say they were less likely to sue their harasser because of recent media coverage.