ST. LEO, FL – A recent national survey by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute (http://polls.saintleo.edu) found that nearly two-thirds of Americans think the #Me Too (or Me Too) movement will last long term, rather than fade away.
From May 25 through May 31, 2018, the polling institute conducted a national survey on a broad range of political and cultural topics, including, for the first time, an exploration of views into the #MeToo movement. The survey introduced the topic and questions on to respondents this way:
Over the past couple of years, Americans have seen growing numbers of individuals come forward and publicly describe difficult individual experiences with sexual harassment and assault. Many have described this as the ‘#MeToo Movement’ or the ‘Me Too Movement.’
The perceived longevity of the issue in American life was one of the first questions. Of the 1,000 adults 24.3 percent say it is very likely that the movement will last long term, and another 39.7 percent say it is somewhat likely, for a sum of 64 percent. Another 19 percent say it is somewhat unlikely the movement will last and 6.6 percent say it is not at all likely the movement will persist, for a combined 6.6 percent. The balance, 10.4 percent, are not sure. The margin of error for responses tallied is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Both genders (evenly split in the survey sample) were in the 60-percent range in considering the movement a long-term change: 66 percent of men say this is the case, as do 62 percent of women.
Some smaller subgroups among the 1,000 surveyed show broader bases of support for the notion that the movement will be long-lasting. Groups showing sums of people who say that it is very likely or somewhat likely that the movement will be long term at levels above the 64 percent recorded in the overall population include Hispanic respondents, at 77.6 percent, and African-Americans at 72.2 percent. Among white respondents (who are more numerous in the survey base to reflect the U.S. population), by contrast, 59.6 percent consider it very likely or somewhat likely the movement to be long term.
Results from some other groups stood out, as well. Among Catholics, 71.7 percent believe the movement is long-term. And among Democrats, 75.2 say the movement is long-term, which compares with 57 percent of Republicans and 61.7 percent of independents.
Another question asked respondents how closely they have followed the movement or reports “over the past couple of years.”
More than one-quarter, at 25.2 percent, report following the topic very closely and 44.9 percent say somewhat closely, for a cumulative 70.1 percent. By contrast, about one in five Americans, at 21.6 percent, say they have not been following very closely, and 5.5 percent say they have not been following the issue at all. A few, at 2.8 percent, say they are unsure.
Gender did not seem to play a role in whether people were watching closely or not.
Education and income do appear to be a factor in the attention level. Of those who report having completed their education with high school graduation, 58.7 are following the issue closely, which is 11.4 percentage points less than the general population’s percentage of 70.1 percent. Those who graduated from college tracked about the same as the general population. Of those who have education beyond a four-year college degree, 78.1 percent say they are following closely, putting that segment of the population 8 percentage points higher than the overall group.
As for income, among those with a (pre-tax) household income of less than $40,000, there was a 9-percentage point drop in those following the issue, to 61 percent. The middle group with incomes between $40,000 and $100,000 almost mirrored the general population. Of those with incomes more than $100,000, three-quarters were paying attention at 75.6 percent.
Democrats report paying attention to the movement at 78.1 percent, or 8 percentage points higher than the general population. Republicans’ and independent voters’ findings were both at 67.8 percent.
To supplement findings on the depth of the public’s attention to the movement, the survey also included a question about #MeToo in a part of the poll devoted mainly to questions about technology usage. This allowed the Saint Leo University Polling Institute to inquire about social media interactions among respondents. Specifically, respondents were asked if they strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree with the following statement, with these results:
I have taken part in discussing the “#MeToo Movement” on social media:*
|Combined percentage who agree||39.4|
|Combined percentage who disagree||54.2|
(*Overall, 72.8.percent of the survey base confirms use of social media platforms such as Facebook or Twitter, led by regular use of Facebook among 91.6 percent of social media consumers. Twitter is used by 43.8 percent of social media consumers surveyed.)
While more than half say they have not commented on social media, more than one-third say they have commented on #MeToo on social platforms. (A percentage of 6.3 say they are not sure.)
Several demographic groups show greater percentage levels of activity—meaning at least 10 points greater than the general population’s 39.4 percent—agreeing that they have participated in social media discussions. In declining order, results show more participation from these groups: those with some post-college education, 82.4 percent; Hispanics, 55.1 percent; those between the ages of 18 and 44, 54.5 percent; Catholics, 53.6 percent; and those with incomes greater than $100,000, 49.4 percent.
“The post-college group is much more likely to discuss it and follow it closely,” said Dr. Eileen O’Brien, a professor of sociology at Saint Leo University, “suggesting it is still a movement of the upper class, despite those at the Golden Globes (entertainment awards) trying to shift the conversation to everyday workers.”
O’Brien also observed similarities between reported levels of interests of varying groups, and social media discussion, as one would expect. “Whites are least likely to follow reports of sexual harassment; they are also the least likely to discuss it on social media,” she said. Of the higher online discussion levels among Hispanic and African-American respondents (tabulated at 44.1 percent), she said, “Nonwhites understand that abuses of power need to be paid attention to because of their own parallel experiences of oppression…They can relate or empathize. They understand race and gender oppression are connected.”
The level of Catholic interest, O’Brien suggested, is “perhaps because of Catholics’ recent history with priests and pedophilia, Catholics are highly attuned to these kinds of abuses of power, and are paying more attention to them than others because of this recent history.”
Democrats also seem to be paying more attention, which O’Brien found interesting in relation to other findings about how well the system protects people who bring complaints forward.
Specifically, the survey asked people how well respondents think victims of harassment and assault are protected from retaliation when they file reports. Possible responses were: very well protected, somewhat protected, minimally protected, not at all protected, or unsure. People are fairly well split. Those who see victims as very well protected or somewhat protected amounted to 49.7 percent, and those who see victims having minimal or no protection from retaliation came to 42.8 percent.
O’Brien noted that while Democrats are more likely to follow the #MeToo issue than Republicans, “Republicans are more likely to have faith in the system to protect victims.” Political-party-based finding show that 61.1 percent of Republicans believe the system protects victims, compared to only 47.3 percent of Democrats and 45.1 percent of independents. The response levels are very similar for those who identify (on a philosophical basis rather than party affiliation) as conservative, liberal, and moderate, she noted.
Anticipating Changes in Society, Maybe
The polling institute wanted to know what people think are effects of individuals coming forward with #MeToo experiences will be, and so included in the survey a number of statements describing possible scenarios. Respondents indicated which ones they see as likely, and results were tabulated.
- The most frequently cited response, selected by 57.7 percent, is that “the culture of overlooking sexual harassment/abuse will change.”
- Slightly more than half of those answering, at 51.1 percent, say there is more likelihood that individuals will be investigated, face ramifications, or lose jobs due to inappropriate actions.
- Another scenario—that because of the movement there will be a change in behavior that results in fewer instances of harassment or assault—was cited by only 41.8 percent of the base.
- Just over one-third, at 34.9 percent, think more women will run for office.
- Slightly less than one-third, 32.4 percent, think individuals will be jailed.
- Fewer than one-third, only 30.6 percent, say that more parents will teach their children their own children about abusive behavior.
- On a more self-reflective note, 19 percent indicate they “Changed the way (they) personally, act and approach others.”
Opinions on Financial Punishments for Offenders and False Accusers
Two other questions asked survey respondents to think about the possibility of laws allowing victims—victims of sexual harassment or assault as well as victims of false accusations of harassment or assault—to collect punitive financial restitution from the other parties. Just over 65 percent say they very strongly agree (30 percent) or somewhat strongly agree (35.1 percent) that individuals who have been harassed or abused should be able to collect from assailants.
The combined level of support is high for exacting financial penalties from those who falsely accuse others, at 72.9 percent. In such cases, 37.9 percent very strongly agree those who lodge false reports should pay, and 35 percent somewhat strongly agree.
Personal Regrets in the Days of #MeToo
The survey posed a direct question to respondents: “In retrospect, do you regret any interactions you may have had over the years that, today, would be interpreted as sexual harassment?”
More than two-thirds, at 68.2 percent, say they do not; 20.7 percent say they do. And 11.1 percent say they are not sure.
Two groups stand out as having percentage levels than the overall population for showing regret than the average-population level of 20.7 percent. Among people who are ages 18 to 44, 33.9 percent register regrets, and among Catholics, 33.1 percent. These groups were also among those engaged in social media discussion more actively than the average population.
Regarding Catholics, O’Brien suggested that the role of confession in the faith tradition may also influence “the higher regret percentage.”
Dr. Christopher Wolfe, psychology faculty member at Saint Leo, was intrigued that “it seems that more respondents within the younger generations have taken a critical view of their actions than those in prior generations. On the one hand, time is the great rationalizer. Those in older generations may not perceive their behavior as negative because, ‘That’s the way things were.’ Developmentally, these old assumption of male and female behavior—whether right or wrong—can become more and more difficult to change as we age,” he said.
“Younger generations,” Wolfe continued, “have grown up with the changing views and changed roles of women in society. In terms of the higher levels of regret, these younger Americans have developed a lower tolerance for behavior perceived as sexist, perhaps leading to a greater sense of responsibility for action, and therein, sense of regret.”
By gender, more males reported regret than females, at 26.6 percent and 14.8 percent, respectively.
About the Poll
METHODOLOGY: The poll sampled opinions of 1,000 adults approximately proportional to state population nationwide. The survey was conducted May 25 through May 31, 2018. All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument. The poll has a +/- 3.0 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level (on a composite basis).
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can also be found here: http://polls.saintleo.edu. You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.
Media contacts: Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications email@example.com or (352) 588-8237 or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).
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