Poll: Americans divided on what constitutes inappropriate behavior

A survey released Wednesday finds Americans divided over what constitutes inappropriate behavior in the workplace, following a string of firings of high-profile public figures over sexual misconduct or harassment.

The new Reuters/Ipsos poll found a large divide in opinion on how people label certain behaviors ranging from hugging to "dirty jokes."


A majority of respondents in the Dec. 13-18 poll said that behaviors such as nonconsensual touching or kissing are forms of sexual harassment, but the divide was sharper over nonconsensual hugging, which 44 percent thought constituted harassment and 40 percent did not. A larger percentage of people from racial minorities, 52 percent, said it was, as opposed to 39 percent of whites. 

Eleven percent of women said that touching someone without their consent was not sexual harassment, compared to 19 percent of men.

Forty-one percent of adults also said they thought that telling "dirty jokes" amounted to sexual harassment, while 47 percent disagreed.

More respondents than not said that "unwanted compliments about your appearance" did not constitute harassment, by 47 percent to 38. 

Young adults born after 1982 appear slightly more lenient on the issue of showing "pornographic pictures" to someone without consent, with 83 percent saying it amounts to harassment compared with 90 percent of Generation X and 94 percent of baby boomers. 

The new online poll surveyed over 3,000 American adults and has a margin of error of 2 percentage points.