Attitudes about sexual harassment and assault can be divided along political lines in the United States and gender in Australia, research released today has found.
A poll commissioned by the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre and carried out by YouGov, which provided the results exclusively to BuzzFeed News, shows most voters surveyed in Australia (67%) and the United States (64%) believe men getting away with sexual harassment and assault is a “major problem”.
“There is a broad similarity across the two countries, which highlights the fact that #MeToo has been a global movement at this point,” the centre’s chief executive professor Simon Jackman told BuzzFeed News.
The average responses for the entire countries were similar but what “jumped out” of the data, Jackman said, was the United States was significantly more politically polarised than Australia on this issue.
“I think that is to do with Trump’s own personal history with women,” he said. “As much as we in Australia perceive a partisan gradient it is quite mild… whereas in the US there is a really pronounced partisan divide on this, and the gender differences in Australia are probably bigger than the partisan differences on this issue.”
Hillary Clinton voters on average expressed more concern about sexual harassment than Australian Labor voters, while Donald Trump voters were generally less concerned than their Coalition counterparts down under.
The survey of 1,800 American and 1,820 Australian voters was designed to be a genuine random sample of citizens. They were asked whether the following issues were a major problem, a minor problem, or not a problem at all: men getting away with committing sexual harassment and assault, women making false claims about sexual harassment or assault, and women not being believed about sexual harassment and assault.
Around three quarters of women in both countries believed men getting away with sexual harassment and assault is a major problem, around two thirds of women in both countries thought women not being believed is a significant issue, and less than half of women in both countries thought that women making false accusations is a worry.
Australian men were more likely than Australian women to say “women making false claims about sexual harassment or assault” was a major problem. In the United States, women overall were slightly more likely than men to say this was a major problem, especially female Trump voters, 64% of whom thought so.
“The comparable figure in Australia is 45% [of Coalition voting women],” Jackman said.
“While Trump dominates a lot of the headlines coming out of the United States, there is tremendous energy out there in American society that generates the Occupy movement, generates Black Lives Matter, generates #MeToo and it is easy to overlook that its citizenry is very much engaged,” Jackman said. “The United States continues to lead and be a place where these protest movements for positive social change take root and go global.”