One-fifth of American adults have experienced sexual harassment at work, CNBC survey says

  • By age group, 16 percent of those ages 18 to 34 said they have been victims, while 25 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds say they have been.
  • The poll was conducted from Dec. 10 to 13 with 800 adults nationwide and a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

About one in five Americans reported experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace, cutting across the population regardless of geographic location, income or political affiliation, a new survey said.

The CNBC All-America Survey found that overall 19 percent of American adults said they have been victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. Among men, the figure was 10 percent, while among women it jumped to 27 percent.

The poll was conducted from Dec. 10 to 13 with 800 adults nationwide and a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. It comes at a time when accusations of sexual harassment in business, politics and the media have dominated national headlines.

By age group, 16 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds say they have been victims, compared with 25 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds. Of the women who reported being victims, 39 percent are of the baby boomer generation, 36 percent are Gen X, and 25 percent are millennials.

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"An encouraging signal from this data is that there are fewer reports of this sort of behavior among younger women," said Micah Roberts, Republican pollster and partner at Public Opinion Strategies, which conducted the survey along with Democratic pollster Jay Campbell of Hart Research.

One explanation for the generational differences could be because boomer and Gen X women have been in the workforce longer and so have had more years to potentially be exposed to harassment than their millennial co-workers. But it could be because, as Roberts suggests, older women worked in a different era and workplace environment, when sexual harassment may have been more common.

A majority of Americans say management at their companies takes sexual misconduct seriously, with 74 percent of all adults saying their company takes it "very seriously" and only 5 percent saying their company does not.

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"There is also wide acceptance of the sort of actions that have been publicly taken by companies in response to these allegations," Roberts said. The survey found that roughly three-fourths of Americans, or 74 percent, said the recent firings of executives and celebrities accused of sexual misconduct in the workplace have been appropriate. Six percent of respondents said these actions were too lenient.

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