#MeToo is one of many issues driving American women to vote

#MeToo is one of many issues driving American women to vote
© Getty Images

The #MeToo movement has been called everything from a “house cleaning,” a “very special time,” to a “witch hunt.” As we write this, it’s possible yet another media celebrity or politician is being exposed as a sexual abuser. To be sure, it’s a relief to have this much attention finally paid to a burden many women have been carrying around like a second handbag. Yet the predator purge almost provides too easy of an out. It allows sexual harassment to be a stand-in for all the challenges women face. Its bipartisan ubiquity allows us to escape the hard questions about how our politics can better address women’s needs.

It’s obvious to women that there is more to the fight for equality than sexual harassment. Now we have extensive polling to back it up. We recently joined forces to conduct a bipartisan poll for the group Business Forward, and we found sexual harassment to be just one of many other obstacles facing women in their own lives. Nearly half of women, 47 percent, say they struggle with unfair treatment, 48 percent have unequal pay, 48 percent have inflexible work schedules, and 48 percent face the multitude of pressures that come with caregiving for others. One-third point to sexual harassment as an obstacle. You put all these obstacles together, it’s no wonder more than six in 10 women in our survey say it’s harder for women to achieve their professional goals than men.

Pew Research found something similar earlier this year, in which four in 10 women experienced some sort of gender-based discrimination, compared to just one-fifth of men, a striking difference given sexual harassment was not even tested. This doesn’t mean sexual harassment at work isn’t commonplace, or that cracking down on it isn’t important. Quite the opposite. Our poll showed over two-thirds of women, 69 percent, feel abuse happens across “in most workplaces,” as opposed to just 12 percent who believe it happens “mostly with men in powerful positions like politics, media, or big business.” Quinnipiac showed four in 10 women personally experienced sexual harassment at work.

Making it easier for women to safely report harassment was the second-most popular proposal we tested, with 87 percent of women (including 88 percent of Republican women) in favor. Harassment doesn’t need to be women’s biggest hurdle for it to be worth tackling. But we need not stop there. Women across party lines agree on a whole suite of proposals to tackle inequality. In our poll, clear majorities of Democratic and Republican women support equal pay, a national child care policy, and mandatory birth control coverage. While some may find party differences in views toward phrases like sexism, feminism and women’s rights, we found worries about personal obstacles and views toward policy priorities transcend party.

Despite this bipartisanship, the parties could not be more different in their approaches to women’s issues. You can see this dynamic at work in how Democrats and Republicans each responded to news about Minnesota Senator Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenPolitical world mourns loss of comedian Jerry Stiller Maher to Tara Reade on timing of sexual assault allegation: 'Why wait until Biden is our only hope?' Democrats begin to confront Biden allegations MORE and Alabama Senate candidate Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreTrump to hold rally in Sessions's hometown for opponent in Senate runoff: report Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama Sessions goes after Tuberville's coaching record in challenging him to debate MORE. Democrats found the Franken news sad, and hesitated to demand his resignation, not because of Senate politics, but because Franken has been an advocate for women’s equality throughout his political career. President TrumpDonald John TrumpProtesters tear down statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore 'Independence Day' star Bill Pullman urges Americans to wear a 'freedom mask' in July 4 PSA Protesters burn American flag outside White House after Trump's July Fourth address MORE and many Republican leaders supported Moore not because they looked at the entirety of his record on women and equality. They just cared about other issues, like tax cuts, more. Casting doubt on the women who come forward with their stories, as Trump and Moore have, acts as an accelerant of the current political flames.

It seems women are hearing the message of each party very clearly. In Virginia, Ed Gillespie won narrowly among men, while Ralph Northam had more than a 20-point advantage among women. Among white women specifically, Gillespie barely won, despite an almost a 30-point advantage with white men. In Alabama, Doug Jones actually won with women, although that’s largely due to his nearly unanimous support among black women. Even here, white women show serious defections from previous levels of support for Republican candidates and were substantially more likely to vote for Jones than were white men.

So it’s no surprise with this backdrop to see women around the country voting with their marching feet, at the ballot box, and in their decisions to run for office. They know there is a lot more to do to achieve equality in the workplace and at home. Exposing sexual abusers is just the beginning.

Margie Omero (@MargieOmero) is partner at the Democratic polling firm GBA Strategies. Christine Matthews (@CMatthewsPolls) is a Republican pollster and president of Bellwether Research. The views expressed here are their own.