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Cross-Pressures on Political Attitudes: Gender, Party, and the #MeToo Movement in the United States

Abstract

The #MeToo movement has brought heightened attention to issues of sexual harassment and assault in the United States since it burst onto the scene in 2017. Because sexual harassment is an issue that often affects women differently than men, we find a gender gap in support for the #MeToo movement in the contemporary period. Yet, given the polarized nature of our times, a more complete picture of this issue requires that we consider the impact of political party as well. With this approach, we are able to examine several important aspects of these attitudes—differences between women and men, diversity within gender groups, and gender gaps within each party. In doing so, we are also able to identify whether some individuals experience cross-pressures because of their gender and partisan identities. Using American National Election Studies data from 2018 to 2020, we find that partisanship is a significant influence on opinion on this highly gender-salient issue, identifying partisan differences that are larger than the differences between women and men. At the same time, we find that women are more polarized in their attitudes toward #MeToo than are men and that Republican women and Democratic men can exhibit the impact of cross-pressured identities.

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Notes

  1. First coined by activist Tarana Burke in 2006 to signal support for women who had survived sexual abuse, the phrase went viral on social media after actor Alyssa Milano accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault and called on others abused by him to tweet ‘me too’.

  2. The hashtag #MeToo was used 19 million times on Twitter from October 2017 to October 2018 (Anderson & Toor, 2018).

  3. At least three other women made allegations against Kavanaugh in the wake of Blasey Ford’s accusations, but no other claims became part of the Senate hearings on his conduct.

  4. Data replication materials are available at: https://dataverse.harvard.edu/dataset.xhtml?persistentId=doi:10.7910/DVN/TFXHAB.

  5. Conducted post-midterm election in December 2018, the 2018 pilot study surveyed 2500 respondents. The 2020 ANES Time Series Study was conducted between August 2020 and December 2020. The 2020 Time Series Study includes 5441 pre-election respondents and 4779 post-election Respondents. Survey weighting is incorporated in empirical models for both years.

  6. We also conducted an analysis including variables that accounted for the region of the country and religion of the respondent, measured both as religiosity and as evangelical or not. None of these variables were significant in any models.

  7. In 2020, men with lower levels of education appear to be more supportive of #MeToo that men with higher levels. However, there was limited variance on this variable for men, with 50% indicating that they held a BA or higher. When accounting for the coefficient and standard error, the total effect of education for men is fewer than three points on a 100-point scale.

  8. We report all predicted probability differences between groups by taking into account the confidence bounds when we calculate the gaps.

  9. Given that the 95% confidence intervals for the predicted probabilities are a more rigorous standard that the p < .05 standard in the regression model, what appears as a gender gap in support for #MeToo among Republicans is not a significant difference in plotting the predicted probabilities. Research suggests that using non-overlapping 95% confidence intervals is equivalent to using a p < .06 standard in the regression model (Schenker & Gentleman, 2001).

  10. While Fig. 1 appears to show that Republicans have become more positive towards #MeToo in 2020 when compared to 2018, the confidence bounds overlap when comparing the 2 years. The overlapping confidence bounds indicates no statistically significance difference. However, in 2020, the variance that exists among Republican men and Republican women decreased in size, which gives the false impression of more positive attitudes upon a quick glance at the figure.

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No funding was received to conduct this study.

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Correspondence to Kathleen Dolan.

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Appendices

Appendix A

Variable Coding

Education::

Continuous measure, 1 = 12th grade or below, no high school diploma; 2 = High school graduate/diploma or equivalent; 3 = Some college but no degree; 4 = Associate degree; 5 = Bachelor’s degree; 6 = Master’s degree; 7 = Professional degree (e.g., MD, DDS, JD); 8 = Doctorate—2018 ANES—measured as 1–6; 5–6 are advanced degrees.

Age::

Continuous measure, age at the time of the survey.

Gender::

0 = man; 1 = woman.

Race::

0 = non-white; 1 = white.

Income::

Continuous measure, 1 = Under $5,000; 2 = $5,000–$9,999; 3 = $10,000–$14,999; 4 = $15,000–$19,999; 5 = $20,000–$24,999; 6 = $25,000–$29,999; 7 = $30,000–$34,999; 8 = $35,000–$39,999; 9 = $40,000–$44,999; 10 = $45,000–$49,999; 11 = $50,000–$54,999; 12 = $55,000–$59,999; 13 = $60,000–$64,999; 14 = $65,000–$69,999; 15 = $70,000–$74,999; 16 = $75,000–$79,999; 17 = $80,000–$84,999; 18 = $85,000–$89,999; 19 = $90,000–$94,999; 20 = $95,000–$99,999; 21 = $100,000–$124,999; 22 = $125,000–$149,999; 23 = $150,000–$174,999; 24 = $175,000–$199,999; 25 = $200,000–$249,999; 26 = $250,000 or more.

Political Ideology::

Continuous measure, 1 = very liberal; 2 = somewhat liberal; 3 = closer to liberals; 4 = neither liberal or conservative; 5 = closer to conservatives; 6 = somewhat conservative; 7 = very conservative.

Party ID::

Nominal measure, Republican; Independent; Democrat—leaners coded as partisans.

Political Interest::

Attention to politics, 0 = hardly at all; 1 = only now and then; 2 = some of the time; 3 = most of the time

Trust in Media::

1 = none; 2 = a little; 3 = a moderate amount; 4 = a lot; 5 = a great deal

#MeToo Feeling::

0–100 feeling thermometer.

Alternative variables explored.

  • Religiosity—importance of religion

  • Evangelical religious identification

  • Region of the country the respondent is residing

  • Strength of partisanship

Appendix B

Descriptive Statistics

See Figs. 3, 4 and Tables 3, 4.

Fig. 3
figure 3

#MeToo feeling thermometer descriptive statistics

Fig. 4
figure 4

#MeToo feeling thermometer descriptive statistics by party and gender groupings

Table 3 Descriptive statistics—2018 ANES Pilot Study
Table 4 Descriptive statistics—2020 ANES Study

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Hansen, M.A., Dolan, K. Cross-Pressures on Political Attitudes: Gender, Party, and the #MeToo Movement in the United States. Polit Behav (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-021-09763-1

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Keywords

  • Gender gap
  • #MeToo
  • Cross-pressures
  • Sexual harassment