Washington, DC — Inspired by the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, Ipsos, in partnership with National Public Radio (NPR), investigated Americans’ perceptions of, and experiences with, different examples of possible workplace sexual harassment. A recent Ipsos/NPR poll fielded in December suggested that most Americans believe it can be hard sometimes to tell what is sexual harassment and what is not. The present findings address this by measuring how Americans perceive different workplace scenarios that represent a range of sexual harassment severity.
When asked to rate the “appropriateness” of 12 different workplace scenarios, on a 7-point scale from always inappropriate to always appropriate, a coworker asking another coworker of equal rank on a date is seen as the most appropriate of all scenarios listed (28% appropriate). The scenarios perceived as least appropriate are spreading rumors about a coworker’s romantic/sex life (97% inappropriate), deliberate touching, leaning over, or cornering someone at work, and talking about someone’s sexual preferences or history at work, (both 93% inappropriate).
Power dynamics play a large role in respondents’ ratings of appropriateness. While a coworker asking another coworker of equal rank on a date is the most acceptable scenario, only 4% feel that a supervisor asking an employee on a date is appropriate. Gender has little effect on coworkers commenting on others’ appearances: 17% of respondents feel that a female commenting on a male coworker’s appearance is appropriate, compared to 15% of respondents who feel that a male commenting on a female coworker’s appearance is appropriate.
To gauge Americans’ social proximity to harassing behaviors, we asked whether respondents had ever seen these scenarios happen to others. Nearly three quarters (72%) have witnessed a male coworker comment on a female coworker’s appearance, and 70% have seen someone asking questions about a coworker’s social life. “Pet names” for women are also relatively common: 58% report witnessing someone referring to an adult female coworker as a “girl,” “babe,” “sweetie,” or “honey.”
Finally, we assessed experiences with harassing behaviors, both receiving and perpetrating. 55% said that asking questions about a coworker’s social life happened to them, while 41% admit to asking these questions about a coworker. One in four report that they have been touched, leaned over, or cornered at work, while 15% admit to telling sexually suggestive stories or jokes of a sexual nature in a professional setting. 14% have been asked out on a date by a supervisor, while only 5% admit to being a supervisor asking a subordinate on a date.
To view the full results of the study, please see the downloadable topline and/or data tables. The NPR story can be found here:
POLL: The ‘Inappropriate’ Office Behaviors Most Pervasive In Workplaces
About the Study
These are findings from an Ipsos poll conducted January 25-30, 2018, on behalf of NPR. For the survey, a sample of 1,130 adults age 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii was interviewed online in English. The sample includes 545 males and 585 females.
The sample for this study was randomly drawn from Ipsos’s online panel (see link below for more info on “Access Panels and Recruitment”), partner online panel sources, and “river” sampling (see link below for more info on the Ipsos “Ampario Overview” sample method) and does not rely on a population frame in the traditional sense. Ipsos uses fixed sample targets, unique to each study, in drawing sample. After a sample has been obtained from the Ipsos panel, Ipsos calibrates respondent characteristics to be representative of the U.S. population using standard procedures such as raking-ratio adjustments. The source of these population targets is U.S. Census 2016 American Community Survey data. The sample drawn for this study reflects fixed sample targets on demographics. Post-hoc weights were made to the population characteristics on gender, age, race/ethnicity, region, and education.
Statistical margins of error are not applicable to online polls. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error and measurement error. Where figures do not sum to 100, this is due to the effects of rounding. An asterisk (*) denotes less than 1%. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points for all respondents. Ipsos calculates a design effect (DEFF) for each study based on the variation of the weights, following the formula of Kish (1965). This study had a credibility interval adjusted for design effect of the following (n=1,130, DEFF=1.3, adjusted Confidence Interval=4.6).
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