American Attitudes on Sexual Harassment

Ipsos Poll on Behalf of NPR

The author(s)
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC — Inspired by the #MeToo movement, Ipsos, in partnership with National Public Radio (NPR), investigated how Americans have been impacted by the recent outpouring of sexual harassment claims and to what extent they've personally dealt with, or encountered, harassment. Across a broad spectrum, Americans proved to be somewhat resigned to commonplace sexual harassment, yet strongly believe in the need for societal change. Nearly half of Americans (44%) think it is inevitable that men will 'hit on' women at work, and a clear majority (86%) also believe that a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment is essential to bringing about change in our society. 

One poignant example of the tension facing Americans on the topic of sexual harassment is the level of doubt assigned to both the victim and the accused. Eight in ten (79%) Americans believe those who report being victims of sexual harassment should be given the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise, yet nearly the same number (77%) believe people accused of sexual harassment should be given the benefit of the doubt until proven otherwise as well. Women are more sympathetic to the victim (84% agree to giving them the benefit of the doubt) than the accused (73% agree), while men are more sympathetic to the accused (74% agree to giving the victim the benefit of the doubt vs. 81% agree to giving it to the accused). This dichotomy is also felt along party lines, with Democrats slightly more supportive of the victim (85% agree to giving them the benefit of the doubt vs. 75% agree to giving the accused the benefit of the doubt) than Republicans are (78% agree to giving the victim the benefit of the doubt vs. 80% for the accused).

Generally, Americans believe there has been a shift over time in how sexual harassment is perceived and dealt with in the workplace. Three quarters of Americans (74%) say that five years ago, a woman who reported being sexually harassed was risking her career, but only 44% agree that is the case now. Similarly, two-thirds of Americans agree reports of sexual harassment were generally ignored five years ago, as opposed to 26% who say they are generally ignored now.

About the Study

These are findings from an Ipsos poll conducted October 10-11, 2017 on behalf of NPR. For the survey, a sample of roughly 1,006 adults age 18+ from the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii was interviewed online in English. The sample includes 340 Democrats, 370 Republicans, and 186 Independents.

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. 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 3.5 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=1,006, DEFF=1.5, adjusted Confidence Interval=5).

The poll also has a credibility interval plus or minus 6.1 percentage points for Democrats, plus or minus 5.8 percentage points for Republicans, and plus or minus 8.2 percentage points for Independents. 

For more information about conducting research intended for public release or Ipsos’ online polling methodology, please visit our Public Opinion Polling and Communication page where you can  download our brochure, see our public release protocol, or contact us.

For more information on this news release please contact:

Chris Jackson
Vice President
Ipsos Public Affairs
[email protected]

About Ipsos Public Affairs

Ipsos Public Affairs is a non-partisan, objective, survey-based research practice made up of seasoned professionals. We conduct strategic research initiatives for a diverse number of American and international organizations, based not only on public opinion research, but elite stakeholder, corporate, and media opinion research.

Ipsos has media partnerships with the most prestigious news organizations around the world. In Canada, the U.S., UK, and internationally, Ipsos Public Affairs is the media polling supplier to Reuters News, the world's leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals. Ipsos Public Affairs is a member of the Ipsos Group, a leading global survey-based market research company. We provide boutique-style customer service and work closely with our clients, while also undertaking global research.

About Ipsos

Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. Ipsos ranks fourth in the global research industry.

With offices in 88 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across five research specializations: brand, advertising and media; customer loyalty; marketing; public affairs research; and survey management.

Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe.

Ipsos has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999 and generated global revenues of €1,782.7 million in 2016.

The author(s)
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs