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Older Women Less Likely to Recognize Sexual Harassment

A poll finds that perceptions of workplace behavior vary by age

Sexual Harassment Survey

Jordan Strauss/AP

The poll also found that 67 percent of all Americans surveyed believed that sexual harassment, like the Harvey Weinstein scandal, happens in most workplaces.

Older Americans are somewhat less inclined than those from younger generations to say they’ve noticed frequent signs of sexual harassment in the workplace, a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has found.

The poll found that 67 percent of all Americans surveyed believed that sexual harassment happens in most workplaces. A gender gap divided men (62 percent) and women (71 percent), but the poll found an even wider difference in perceptions based on age.

Among women 18 to 49 years old, 78 percent said yes when asked whether “sexual harassment happens in almost all or most workplaces.” Among women 50 and older, 64 percent said the same, a difference of 14 percentage points.

Among men 18 to 49, 68 percent said harassment happens in almost all or most workplaces, while 55 percent of age 50-plus men agreed, a 13-point difference.

NBC News speculated that the perception gap stems partly from the likelihood that younger employers are more commonly the target of harassment.

A majority (56 percent) of women ages 18 to 34 who were polled said they had “received an unwelcome sexual advance or other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature at work.” The figure was 44 percent among women ages 35 to 49, and 41 percent among those 50 and older.

It’s also possible, NBC noted, that today’s younger workforce is less accepting of the excuse that “boys will be boys.”

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