Office hijinks or sexual harassment?

November 1, 2017

The news and film industries are, by far, not the only workplaces in which employees are subject to unwanted sexual advances and innuendos: Indeed, according to the findings of a poll released on October 12, 87% of American consider sexual harassment to be a problem at work.

However, 69% of respondents do not think such treatment is inevitable, according to the Marist poll, commissioned by WGBH Boston and OZY Media for the new PBS prime-time, cross-platform debate program, Third Rail with OZY. They place the responsibility for addressing the problem on U.S. businesses.

Other findings: 42% of those reached—up from 17% in a 1986 Time/Yankelovich Clancy Shulman Poll—say sexual harassment is a big problem; while 45% report it is somewhat of a problem and 11% believe it is not a problem at all.

There is a gender gap. Men (16%) are nearly three times as likely as women (6%) to say that there is no problem regarding workplace sexual harassment.

Other differences fall along racial, age, and partisan lines. Non-white residents (52%), residents under 45 years of age (50%), and Democrats (53%) are more likely than white respondents (36%), those age 45 or older (36%), and Republicans (31%) to perceive sexual harassment to be a big problem. By four to one, Republicans (24%) are more likely than Democrats (6%) to say sexual harassment is not an issue.

“Recent headlines out of Hollywood, FOX, Silicon Valley and elsewhere suggest that sexual harassment in the workplace is a very real issue for many women. The Marist findings indicate that the vast majority of Americans acknowledge this problem,” said Denise DiIanni, series creator and of Third Rail with OZY.

The  survey of 508 adults was conducted September 19-20 by telephone using live interviewers.

Research contact: thirdrail@wgbh.org