The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have brought down dozens of powerful men and sparked a nationwide reckoning over issues of sexual harassment and violence, but those surveyed in a new poll by YouGov and The Economist were actually far less inclined to support survivors than they were one year ago.
YouGov polled 1,500 Americans on the same questions surrounding sexual misconduct in early November of last year, just a few weeks after The New York Times and The New Yorker reported on the sexual-assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. It polled them again in the last week of this past September.
From 2017 to 2018, the percentage of adults agreeing that false rape allegations were a bigger problem than sexual assault rose to 18% from 13% — including an increase to 35% from 20% among people who said they voted for Donald Trump.
While the percentage of adults agreeing with the statement "women who complain about sexual harassment cause more problems than they solve" changed by just a few points, the number of Trump voters agreeing jumped by 10 percentage points. The number of women agreeing increased by 4%, while the percentage of men agreeing remained more or less the same.
The starkest differences in opinion were the responses to the statement "men who sexually harassed women 20 years ago should not lose their jobs today," to which 28% responded yes in 2017 compared with 36% in 2018. The number of women agreeing increased by 7 percentage points, and the percentage of Trump voters saying so jumped by 20 points.
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A similar poll released by NPR and Ipsos on Wednesday found that more than 40% of Americans said the #MeToo movement had gone too far.
While the poll didn't define what "too far" meant, follow-up conversations found that respondents felt as if there had been a rush to judgment in sexual-misconduct cases and the threat of someone's career being destroyed over unfounded allegations had become too high.
Party affiliation was a big factor in how people responded. While 85% of Democrats said accusers should be given the benefit of the doubt, only 67% of Republicans agreed. There was a similar difference when the 1,000 respondents were questioned about whether they thought false accusations were common. Seventy-seven percent of Republicans said they thought false accusations were common, compared with 37% of Democrats.
Nicole Bedera, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Michigan whose research focuses on sexual violence, cautioned against drawing broad conclusions from the YouGov survey because of its timing and the phrasing of some of its questions.