Poll: 4 In 10 Say #MeToo Movement Has Gone Too Far One year after the #MeToo movement took off, new NPR-Ipsos polls show the nation deeply divided on the issue of sexual assault and harassment. The fissures run more along party lines than gender.
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On #MeToo, Americans More Divided By Party Than Gender

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On #MeToo, Americans More Divided By Party Than Gender

On #MeToo, Americans More Divided By Party Than Gender

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

One year after the #MeToo movement took off, a new NPR/Ipsos poll shows the nation is deeply divided on the issue of sexual assault and harassment. Most of the thousand Americans surveyed see progress in holding offenders accountable. But more than 40 percent feel the movement has gone too far. NPR's Tovia Smith has been looking into this poll and joins us now.

Hi, Tovia.

TOVIA SMITH, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: So not so surprising that the nation is divided on this, as it is on so many things, but what is really interesting here is where that divide falls, right?

SMITH: Right. For all the talk about this as a woman's issue and a war on men, it turns out gender is actually less a driver here than party is. So for example, we asked whether the benefit of the doubt in these cases should go to alleged victims. Eighty-five percent of Democrats say yes, compared to 67 percent of Republicans. And that party divide is nearly twice the size of the gender gap.

And we see a similar pattern on sexual harassment. That gap has actually widened in the past year, mostly because of shifting opinions among Republicans. And you can get a sense of that here from one of the respondents, 53-year-old Cindy Bradshaw (ph) from Texas.

CINDY BRADSHAW: I feel like in the last year that girls are like, oh, yeah, me too. But I feel like some of the girls want the attention, and I feel like it really, really takes away from the girls that, you know, it really happened to.

MARTIN: So she clearly sounds like someone who thinks #MeToo, the movement as a whole, has gone too far. Did the poll ask that specific question, and what did it find?

SMITH: Yes. Very stark divide. Overall, 43 percent think #MeToo has gone too far. And from what respondents have told me, that tends to mean there's too much rushing to judgment and too many maybe frivolous accusations. So the partisan divide on that, it's 3/4 of Republicans and less than 1/4 of Democrats.

And same story on related questions, like whether people think false accusations of sexual assault are common. The party split there is quadruple the gender gap. So we see lots of Democratic men, for example, like Steve Novotny (ph), from Georgia, who take the side of alleged victims and discount this whole idea of false accusations.

STEVE NOVOTNY: I think that's the exception as opposed to the rule. I mean, I think most people wouldn't make up something just to get back at someone. You know, they don't want to put themselves under that public scrutiny.

MARTIN: Still, there are a lot of other people - men and women - who believe that false accusations do happen. So I mean, it's no wonder really we're seeing something of a backlash to the #MeToo movement right now.

SMITH: Yeah. That really has risen to a new level, especially since the controversy around then-Supreme Court nominee and now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh who was accused, of course, of sexual misconduct that allegedly happened decades ago. And also since President Trump has been fueling the narrative that this is a scary time for young men because they'll be considered guilty until proven innocent. That has all helped bolster this #HimToo movement, which is the hashtag now being used for the cause of the wrongly accused. And our survey suggests that does seem to be resonating with the president's base.

MARTIN: Also I mean, we should just point, out the president himself has these allegations against him and has maintained that he is among the falsely accused. So Tovia, what about the other side? I mean those who may think #MeToo has been a long-overdue reckoning? What does the poll say about those people?

SMITH: Yeah. We see that just over 2/3 think that #MeToo has brought about a new era of accountability - so people accused of sexual misconduct will be held accountable. But we still see more than a third of women and Democrats who believe reports of sexual harassment do still get ignored. And that's actually up slightly from last year. I heard that from Texas Democrat Juan Rodriguez (ph), who thinks allegations get dismissed because people are demanding a level of proof now that often just doesn't exist in sexual misconduct cases.

JUAN RODRIGUEZ: With the way things are now, I think it's just going to get brushed off. They're raising the bar too high. Like, you've got to really prove your case. It gives the perpetrator the right to just get away with stuff.

MARTIN: So if he's right, if the bar, if the burden of proof is higher, I mean, you could say that, I would imagine, there's an effect on whether or not women report. Did the poll address that?

SMITH: Yeah. Actually, reporting is one area of agreement here. We see 75 percent of women, - 75 percent of people believe that women still risk their jobs when they report sexual assault. But interestingly, most people also say they would be more likely to report now than they would've been a year ago.

MARTIN: NPR's Tovia Smith digging into that poll for us.

Thank you so much.

SMITH: Thank you.

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