FiveThirtyEight: After MeToo, More Americans See Sexual Harassment as a Problem, But Partisan Divisions Remain

Are Americans More Divided On #MeToo Issues? Writing at FiveThirtyEight, Meredith Conroy analyzes how opinions on sexual harassment and assault have changed since the beginning of the #MeToo movement. Using recent survey data about the attitudes and beliefs of the U.S. electorate gathered by The Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, Conroy reports:

“On the whole, since 2016, Republicans have grown more skeptical of women who report harassment and the motivation behind their claims. However, members of both parties were more likely to acknowledge that sexual harassment of women in the workplace is a problem in the U.S. in 2018, compared with 2016 — so there is some evidence that more people from both parties view sexual harassment as a problem today than did before.”

As part of our research conducted by Goodwin Simon with the Berkeley Media Studies Group for Where we’re going and where we’ve been: Making the case for preventing sexual violence, RALIANCE learned that when it comes to sexual violence prevention, the messengers are as important as the message and often need to come first.

Here are a few ideas on how we flip the script and see more social change: 

  • Get granular about the journey

Our findings in the messaging guide suggest that conservative audiences “feel even more discomfort, skepticism, and inner conflict about whether prevention is possible. For these people to connect with our message, we may need to tell stories that include more details about the journey and describe more steps in the change process.”

  • Name the harm

Our research suggested that terms got in our way. Phrases like “sexual misconduct” made people think of unwanted overtures, innuendos, and suggestive conversations instead of more egregious actions on a spectrum of behaviors. If men are skeptical of women who report harassment and the motivation behind their claims, it’s time to use plain language, backed up by concrete examples. That is much more effective in helping audiences understand complex ideas.

  • Change is happening — but it takes time

This comparison was of survey data spread across only two years. As shown by the outpouring of support and criticism during and after the Kavanaugh hearings, we have a long way to go in this conversation. Much more needs to be done to engage men and boys as part of the solution. That includes moving from understanding that there is a problem to holding those accountable for their behaviors.

Learn more about what RALIANCE is doing to support survivor-centered policies and legislative initiatives!