Five years after the #MeToo movement went viral, more Americans support than oppose it, at a rate of about 2-to-1. And most say those who sexually harass or assault others at work are more apt to face consequences, while those reporting such offenses are more apt to be believed than just five years ago.

That’s according to a new study from Pew Research Center that included 6,034 U.S. adults as part of a larger survey fielded July 5-17. In the survey, about half of the respondents support the movement, compared to 21% who oppose it.

The analysis focuses on workplace harassment and assault, though respondents were asked more generally about their perception of the #MeToo movement.

The survey notes “wide partisan gaps, with Democrats roughly three times as likely as Republicans” to favor the movement.

Study author Anna Brown, a research associate at Pew, said the #MeToo hashtag went viral in 2017 and the research center wanted to see what impact the movement had.

“I just think it’s interesting that so many people have seen some really clear effects the movement has had in the workplace,” she told the Deseret News. “I think there's a lesson there for workplaces.”

Changing job atmosphere

Activist Tarana Burke coined the phrase “MeToo” in 2006, but it didn’t become part of America’s vocabulary until 2017 when actress Alyssa Milano urged those who have experienced sexual harassment or assault on the job to post their stories on social media, using #MeToo.

“Millions did so, and in the years that followed, hundreds of powerful men lost their jobs or roles after accusers alleged that they had been victims of harassment or assault by these men in the workplace,” the report says.

The #MeToo Movement brought allegations against a number of high-profile people, from Harvey Weinstein, now a former film producer and convicted sex offender, to former “Today” host Matt Lauer, who was accused of inappropriate sexual behavior at work.

Among other findings, Brown found that:

  • Seventy percent believe those who commit either offense are more likely to be held responsible than five years ago. That belief crosses demographic and partisan lines.
  • About 60% believe those who report harassment or assault are more apt to be believed than would have been the case in 2017. “These views are echoed even by a majority of those who oppose the #MeToo movement overall,” the report says.

“Overall, we saw a gender gap here in that women tend to be a little bit more skeptical of the impact that the movement has had. Women are less likely than men to think that people who commit sexual harassment or assault are now more likely to be held accountable than five years ago, though still a majority of women do believe that,” Brown said.

  • While relatively few Americans say false reporting is common, 46% say it’s very common to fail to report such workplace incidents.
  • Forty-six percent also say that the movement has made it tough for men to know how to interact with women in the workplace, compared to 21% who say it’s now easier and 32% who say it hasn’t made a lot of difference. 
  • The numbers are different when asking if it’s harder for women to relate to men at work: 46% say it hasn’t made a difference, while 26% say it’s easier and a near-identical 27% say #MeToo has made it harder.

Differing views

The study found big differences between men and women — and even bigger differences across party lines.

Women, young adults ages 18 to 29 and Democrats are more supportive of the movement than men, older adults or Republicans, according to the report. In fact, 72% of women younger than 30 support the movement, compared to 52% of young men.

Overall, 54% of women who have heard of the #MeToo movement are supportive, compared to 42% of men. But while 70% of Democrats support the movement, only 22% of Republicans say the same.

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There is also some variation by race. Per the report: “While white adults who have heard of the movement are more likely than Black and Hispanic adults to oppose #MeToo, this is tied to the fact that white adults are also more likely to be Republicans.” Brown noted that white Democrats are more supportive than Black and Hispanic Democrats. Other races were included in the total, but their numbers were too small to be shown separately.

Among those not supporting the movement, “I wouldn’t say there was one huge reason that stuck out for everyone,” Brown said. “But among the opponents of the #MeToo movement, about 1 in 5 say they oppose it for reasons related to due process. And another common response given was because of the potential for false accusations.”

Brown noted that among supporters, “About a third say they support it because women deserve equality or respect, or that the movement draws attention to the issues of sexual harassment or assault. Some of the other reasons include holding abusers accountable, supporting victims and destigmatizing sexual assault and harassment.”

She said the question was open-ended and people were allowed to give up to three reasons they felt as they did.

Men were more likely than women to say women deserve equality and respect or that the movement holds abusers accountable and it’s just the right thing to do. Women were more likely than men to cite supporting victims or say their own personal experience is a reason they support the movement.

No gender gap was found among those who do not support #MeToo, Brown said.