March 4, 2022 – A new global study conducted by Ipsos in collaboration with the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London for International Women’s Day shows that, on average, across 30 countries:
- Only two in 10 adults deny the existence of gender inequality, but views are split on the benefits of feminism;
- Concerns about online abuse remain, with nearly one in 10 men saying it’s acceptable to send someone unrequested explicit images;
- Four in 10 adults have experienced online abuse or seen sexist content but one in three believe many women overreact; and
- Victim-blaming attitudes are found in a minority across the countries asked.
Men are more likely to question the existence of gender inequality and the benefits of feminism
A majority of adults both globally (55% on average across the various countries surveyed) and in the United States (57%) disagree gender inequality doesn’t really exist. However, despite evidence that gender inequality globally has only increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, just under one-fifth agree, both globally (18%) and in the U.S. (17%).
- Men are more likely to agree that gender inequality doesn’t really exist than women (21% vs. 14% globally, 22% vs. 13% in the U.S.). In several countries, the proportion of men who agree is double the proportion of women (including Australia, 30% vs. 14%; Romania, 27% vs. 13%; and Russia, 30% vs. 12%).
Men are also more likely to be skeptical about the benefits of feminism and to question the existence of gender inequality today:
- On average globally, one-third of men agree feminism does more harm than good (32%) and that traditional masculinity is under threat (33%).
- Compared with their brethren across the world, American men are slightly less likely to agree feminism does more harm than good (28%), but they are significantly more likely to view traditional masculinity as being under threat (45% do so, the second-highest percentage across all countries surveyed, trailing only Russia).
- Women are less likely to share these views:
- One in five (20% globally, 22% in the U.S.) agree feminism does more harm than good and about one in four (25% globally, 28% in the U.S.) agree traditional masculinity is under threat today.
- One-fifth of all adults think that feminism has resulted in men losing out in terms of economic or political power or socially (19% globally, 17% in the U.S.)
- Again, men are more likely to agree than are women (23% vs. 15% globally, 20% vs. 15% in the U.S.).
Victim-blaming attitudes toward violence against women are held by a minority, but only around half disagree outright with victim-blaming statements
More than half of adults surveyed disagree that violence against women is often provoked by the victim (55% on average globally, 64% in the U.S.) and that women who say they are abused often make up or exaggerate claims of abuse or rape (53% globally and 54% in the U.S.). However, a minority express concerning views about violence against women:
- Fifteen percent of all adults on average globally and 9% in the U.S. say violence against women is often provoked by the victim.
- Among women only, agreement is only slightly lower (13% globally and 7% in the U.S.).
- The proportion saying that women who report being abused often make up or exaggerate claims is also 15% globally while it is 13% in the U.S.
- Men are twice as likely as women to say so, both globally (20% vs. 10%) and in the U.S. (17% vs. 9%).
- While three in four disagree that a woman has an obligation to have sex with her boyfriend or husband even if she doesn’t feel like it (76% globally, 78% in the U.S.), one in ten agree (9% both globally and in the U.S.).
- Globally, younger people are more likely to agree with all three sentiments.
- At a global level, around one in five Gen Z adults and Millennials agree that violence against women is often provoked by the victim (18% and 19%, respectively), compared to 14% of Gen Xers and 11% of Baby Boomers.
- The U.S. shows a similar pattern with about one in five Millennials agreeing that violence against women is provoked by the victim (17% vs. 9% among adults of all ages), women reporting abuse often make up or exaggerate claims (20% vs. 13%), and women must oblige to having sex with their partner even if they don’t feel like (18% vs. 9%)
Women are more likely to receive online harassment and to feel affected by it
Harmful and misogynistic content is prevalent online:
- Two in five (45% on average globally, 40% in the U.S.) say they have experienced online abuse or seen sexist content in the past two years.
- Among 12 forms of harmful content studied, five have been experienced by an average of 12% to 16% of adults globally and by a similar proportion of Americans:
- Viewing comments or images online that suggest men are superior to women (cited by 16% globally, 15% in the U.S.);
- Viewing comments or images online that suggest women cause many of the problems facing men (16% and 14%);
- Being sent unrequested comments or compliments on their physical appearance (14% and 13%);
- Generally abusive language directed at them (13% and 14%); and
- Being sent unrequested, sexually explicit images (12% and 16%).
- Women are more likely than men to have noticed messages that men are superior to women (19% of women vs. 13% of men globally, 21% of women vs. 9% o men in the U.S.) and that women cause men’s problems (18% vs. 13% globally, 18% vs. 11% in the U.S.).
- Women are also more prone to experiencing sexual harassment online:
- Receiving unrequested comments or compliments about their physical appearance (cited by 19% of women vs. 10% of men globally, 20% vs. 7% in the U.S.), or
- Having had sexist or misogynistic language directed at them (11% of women vs. 5% of men globally, 12% vs. 4% in the U.S.).
Overall, women also seem to be more impacted by online abuse. Among adults who have viewed comments or images online that suggest men are superior to women or that women cause many of the problems facing men, women are more likely than men to report that they have:
- Stopped saying what they think online (32% vs. 26%),
- Experienced lower self-esteem or self-confidence (26% vs. 18%), and
- Experienced panic attacks, anxiety, or stress (18% vs. 13%).
Globally, a clear majority agree that women should not have to put up with online abuse (30-country average of 78%).
- Agreement is lower amongst men (74% vs. 82% of women) and younger adults (75% of those under age 50 vs. 85% of those aged 50+).
- However, people are split as to whether the best way for women to deal with online abuse is to ignore it, with 35% agreeing and 39% disagreeing.
- Compared to the global average, Americans are more likely to agree that women should not have to put up with online abuse (84%) and to disagree they should ignore it (45%)
Globally, people are slightly more likely to agree than disagree that men are mainly to blame for online abuse (35% agree and 27% disagree) and split on whether many women overreact to things that people send them or say to them online (33% agree and 31% disagree).
- However, this is not the case in the U.S. where fewer agree than disagree that the problem is mostly men’s fault (26% vs. 34%) and that many women overreact (27% vs. 37%).
- This said, both globally and in the U.S., men are more likely than women to agree that many women are overreacting (36% vs. 30% globally, 32% vs. 22% in the U.S.)
Most think harmful and abusive online behavior is unacceptable, but acceptability is higher among men, younger adults, and frequent internet users
When asked about various forms of online abuse, the vast majority find them unacceptable. However:
- One-quarter think sending unrequested comments or compliments to someone on their physical appearance is acceptable (25% global country average, 23% in the U.S.)
- Men are more likely to agree than women (28% vs. 22% globally, 26% vs. 21% in the U.S.).
- Both on average globally and in the U.S. and each of the following forms of online contact is deemed acceptable by a small proportion of adults ranging between 6% and 11%:
- Using generally abusive language,
- Homophobic or transphobic comments,
- Sexist or misogynistic language,
- Racist language,
- Posting personal details online,
- Sending unrequested sexually explicit images, and
- Sharing someone’s intimate images without consent.
- Younger people tend to be more likely to find harmful online behavior acceptable than older generations. For example, at the global level, 10% of Gen Z adults and Millennials find sending someone unrequested, sexually explicit images acceptable, compared to 6% of Gen Xers and 3% of Baby Boomers.
- In the U.S., the differences are even more marked: 10% of Gen Z adults and 15% of Millennials say it’s acceptable vs. 3% of Gen X and 1% of Boomers.
- The view that certain forms of online harm are acceptable is more widespread among frequent online users. Those who use social media, messaging services, or online gaming at least once a month are more likely than those who never do to say that sharing someone’s intimate images without their consent is acceptable (10% vs. 3% globally, 10% vs. 2% in the U.S.).
“Ahead of International Women’s Day, this data shows there are still strides to be made around the world when it comes to perceptions of gender equality and acceptance of harassment and violence against women,” said Mallory Newall, vice president, Ipsos U.S. Public Affairs. “Here in the U.S., nearly half of men believe that traditional masculinity is under threat, while around a third see women as overreacting to harassment and abuse online. This reflects wider issues in our society about sexism and misogyny, both in person and online.”
About the Study
These are the results of a 30-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 20,524 adults aged 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, aged 21-74 in Singapore, and 16-74 in 24 other countries between January 21 and February 4, 2022.
The sample consists of approximately 1,000 interviews in each of Australia, Brazil, Canada, mainland China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the U.S., and 500 individuals in each of Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Hungary, India, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, and Turkey.
The samples in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the U.S. can be taken as representative of their general adult population under the age of 75.
The samples in Brazil, Chile, mainland China, Colombia, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, and Turkey are more urban, more educated, and/or more affluent than the general population. The survey results for these countries should be viewed as reflecting the views of the more “connected” segment of their population.
The data is weighted so that each country’s sample composition best reflects the demographic profile of the adult population according to the most recent census data.
“The Global Country Average” reflects the average results for all the countries where the survey was conducted. It has not been adjusted to the population size of each country and is not intended to suggest a total result.
Where results do not sum to 100 or the “difference” appears to be +/-1 more/less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses, or the exclusion of “don’t know” or not stated responses.
The precision of Ipsos online polls is calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to +/-3.5 percentage points and of 500 accurate to +/- 5.0 percentage points. For more information on Ipsos’ use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website. The publication of these findings abides by local rules and regulations.