Poll: 33 percent of female voters in Massachusetts say they’ve been sexually harassed at work

And the rate is higher among younger women.

Victims of sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual abuse and their supporters protest during a #MeToo march in Hollywood, California on November 12, 2017.
Several hundred women gathered in front of the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood before marching to the CNN building to hold a rally. / AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTONMARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images
Victims of sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual abuse and their supporters protest during a #MeToo march last November in Hollywood, California. –Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty Images, File

More than one in five Massachusetts voters say they’ve been sexually harassed at work, and the rate is significantly higher among women, according be a new poll.

WBUR reported Thursday that 33 percent of women say they have received “unwanted sexual advance or other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature at work” as opposed to 8 percent of men who reported such an experience.

Younger women (and younger men) were also more likely than their older peers to say they had been sexually harassed. According to the poll, 37 percent of women under 50 said they had experienced workplace sexual harassment, while just 29 percent of women 50 or older reported the same. The rate among young men was 12 percent, compared to just 4 percent among their older peers.


Steve Koczela, the president of MassInc Polling, which conducted the survey, told WBUR a potential reason for the age gap is that younger demographics have a broader definition of what is considered sexual harassment.

“What other polls have shown is that it varies a bit by demographic group what is considered sexual harassment, so younger people are likely to consider more things to be harassment compared to older people,” Koczela said.

As The Economist recently reported, a YouGov poll taken last November in Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, and the United States found a “consistent pattern” that younger respondents were more likely to think that certain behaviors — from cat-calling to unwelcome touching — crossed the line than older respondents.

For example, 38-year-old Lancaster resident Alice Crossland told WBUR that it wasn’t until the recent national reckoning that she reflected on sexual harassment she had experienced as a teenage worker.

“When I’d go in for my salary review for raises, my manager at the time would say things like, ‘if you sit on my lap, I’ll give you an extra 15 cents an hour,'” Crossland said, adding that those sorts of experiences “just become part of the fabric of your life.”


According to the WBUR poll, the percentage of female respondents who said they had been sexually harassed was also associated with education and income.

The 33-percent rate of female respondents in Massachusetts who said in the poll that they had experienced sexual harassment is relatively low compared to the rate in national surveys on the subject.

A comprehensive 2016 report by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal workplace rights agency, said 25 to 50 percent of women, depending on the sample, reported experiencing “sexual harassment” in the workplace, when the term was not defined. However, when surveyors asked the question using more specific language, that rate rose to 40 to 75 percent.

More recent polling in the wake of the #MeToo movement has found the rate of women who say they have been sexually harassed at work to range from 27 percent to 48 percent to 69 percent.


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