LEWISBURG, Pa. – A new Bucknell University survey reveals that six months after the #MeToo movement first gained national exposure, Americans are deeply divided about both the current state of the movement and what impact it should ultimately have.
The nationally representative survey, conducted by YouGov for the Bucknell Institute for Public Policy during the week of March 26-31, reveals that Americans widely believe that #MeToo will lead workplaces to change their policies and empower more women to come forward. But it also shows divisions in whether the movement has gone too far, and whether it will also have negative long-term consequences.
While men and women vary somewhat in their views of #MeToo, the biggest differences on the movement and its likely consequences are across political lines.
“The #MeToo movement has, in many ways, become a defining partisan issue of our time,” said Chris Ellis, associate professor of political science and director of the Bucknell Survey Research Laboratory. “Differences in how Democrats and Republicans perceive #MeToo are as large or larger than differences they have on issues such as immigration, climate change, tax cuts, or welfare. #MeToo is maybe the clearest example yet of how our growing political culture war swallows up everything in its path.”
Ellis notes that these political differences transcend gender, age, or other demographic characteristics. “Democrats, regardless of gender, perceive #MeToo favorably and think that it will affect positive change with few negative implications,” he said. “Republicans, regardless of gender, are likely to think that the movement has gone too far and that one of its main consequences will be to unfairly punish men.”
Overall, 81 percent of Americans said that they were familiar with the #MeToo movement. Roughly half of the respondents (41 percent) had a favorable view of the movement, while 21 percent viewed it unfavorably (the remaining 38 percent either had no opinion or had never heard of the movement). Favorability was considerably higher among women (61 percent) than men (39 percent), but there were differences across age lines, with 58 percent under 35 viewing the movement favorably, compared to 50 percent of those 65 or older.
The largest gaps in perceptions of #MeToo were across party lines: 63 percent of Democrats, but only 37 percent of Independents and 20 percent of Republicans, had a favorable view of the movement. Female Democrats were the most likely of all to have a favorable impression of the movement, with nearly-three quarters (71 percent) viewing it favorably, compared to 53 percent of Democratic men. Just 20 percent of Republican women and men viewed the movement favorably.
Has #MeToo gone too far?
Among Americans familiar with #MeToo, 40 percent thought that the movement had “gone too far,” while 19 percent said that it had “not gone far enough.” Forty-one percent said that they thought the movement has been “about right.” Nearly half (47 percent) of American men thought that the movement had gone too far, compared to 34 percent of women.
Again, there were significant differences across party lines. Less than a fifth of Democratic women (18 percent) and men (19 percent) thought that the movement had gone too far. But two thirds (66 percent) of Republican women, and three quarters (75 percent) of Republicans men thought that it had gone too far. Only 9 percent of Republican women (and 2 percent of Republican men) thought that the movement had not gone far enough, compared to 32 percent of Democratic women and 27 percent of Democratic men.
Likely consequences of #MeToo
Americans have mixed opinions on the likely long-term consequences of #MeToo. Nearly 9-in-10 Americans said that it was “very” or “somewhat” likely that #MeToo would lead to workplaces creating stricter definitions of sexual harassment, and that the movement would empower more women to come forward with allegations of sexual harassment or assault. These views were widely shared across partisan, gender and age groupings. Americans were less likely to think that the movement will actually lead to a decline in sexual harassment: 66 percent saying that this was somewhat likely, while only 21 percent said it was very likely.
There was more division in views of the potential negative unintended consequences of #MeToo:
Workplace mentorship: Roughly two-thirds (64 percent) of Americans think that it is at least somewhat likely that #MeToo will make it less likely for men to be willing to mentor women in the workplace, with 70 percent of women and 57 percent of men sharing this view. Republicans were far more apt to think that #MeToo will lead to a decline in workplace mentorship of women: 80 percent of Republican women, and 92 percent of Republican men felt this would happen, compared to 45 percent of Democratic women and 57 percent of Democratic men.
Gender segregation in the workplace: More than half (56 percent) of Americans thought it was somewhat or very likely that #MeToo would lead to the growing segregation of men and women in the workplace. Republican men (87 percent) were the most likely to think this would happen, more than Republican women (73 percent), Democratic men (48 percent), or Democratic women (37 percent).
Unfair punishment: Americans were split on whether #MeToo will lead to more men being fired or punished for things that they did not do. Seventy percent of all Americans thought that #MeToo is at least somewhat likely to lead men to be unfairly fired or punished: 79 percent of all men said that this was at least somewhat likely, compared to 60 percent of all women.
The possibility of unfair punishment also revealed significant partisan differences. Republican men were nearly unanimous in their views that #MeToo would lead to the unfair punishment of men, with 93 percent responding that this was at least somewhat likely, and nearly half (47 percent) saying that it was very likely. Eighty-three percent of Republican women also felt that a rise in unfair punishment was at least somewhat likely. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Democratic men thought that a rise in unfair punishment was very likely, compared to 55 percent of Democratic women.
For topline data and methodological information, click here.