A new survey by the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership on attitudes to feminism and gender equality shows a growing divide between younger men and women.
The gender split between men and women on issues such as whether feminism has done more good or harm to society is starkest among young people, according to a new study.
The findings, from King’s College London’s Policy Institute and Global Institute for Women’s Leadership in partnership with Ipsos UK, shows the gender split in views is starkest among the young when it comes to how helpful the term “toxic masculinity” is, whether it’s harder to be a man than a woman today, whether feminism has done more good or harm to society, and approval of the influencer Andrew Tate.
The research – which is based on a representative survey of 3,716 people aged 16+ using the Ipsos UK online random probability KnowledgePanel – also shows that in some cases young men today are no more supportive of action on gender equality than older men, despite the fact that they are generally more socially liberal, and that young men tend to be more worried about the challenges facing men.
On the term toxic masculinity, the public are twice as likely to say it is an unhelpful rather than helpful term. While younger people overall have a more favourable view of the phrase, there is a big gender divide in views among them: 37% of men aged 16 to 29 say “toxic masculinity” is an unhelpful phrase, roughly double the 19% of young women who feel this way. And young women (47%) are considerably more likely than young men (29%) – or any other age category – to find it a helpful term.
By contrast, views among older age groups vary less by gender – although older men are more likely than younger men to say “toxic masculinity” is an unhelpful term.
Around half (48%) the public think it’s harder to be a woman than a man today, while one in seven (14%) say the reverse.
The biggest gender gap in views is seen among the youngest generation: women aged 16 to 29 are especially likely to say it is harder to be a woman, with 68% feeling this way, compared with 35% of men of the same age.
Among men, it is the oldest who are least likely to say that men have it harder: 17% of men aged 60+ feel this way, compared with 25% of men aged 16 to 59.
And when asked if women in the UK generally have better or worse lives than men today, men aged 60+ (12%) are less likely than younger and middle-aged men (19%) to say women have better lives.
One in six (17%) of the UK public overall believe that in 20 years’ time it will be harder to be a man than a woman.
Men aged 16 to 29 (30%) are almost twice as likely to feel this way, including 19% who think it’ll be much harder to be a man.
On the other hand, it is women of this age (48%) who are most likely to say it’ll be harder to be a woman than a man two decades from now, meaning this youngest group is the most divided by gender on what the future will look like.
The survey found that, overall, just over four in 10 (43%) think feminism has done more good to society than harm, while only 12% think it has done more harm than good.
Among those aged 16 to 29, 46% of women think feminism has done more good to society than harm – 10 percentage points higher than the share of young men who feel this way (36%).
And within this age group, one in six (16%) men say feminism has done more harm than good, compared with one in 11 (9%) women.
13% of the UK public overall say attempts to give equal opportunities to women have gone too far – but a much greater share, 46%, say they’ve not gone far enough. A third (36%) say these attempts have made about the right amount of progress already.
Men (17%) are around twice as likely as women (8%) to say efforts to support women’s equality have gone too far.
And when it comes to those who think efforts to provide equal opportunities have not gone far enough, the youngest men surveyed (36%) are no more likely than the oldest (37%) hold this view.
6% of people who have heard of Andrew Tate say they have a favourable view of him, while 76% have an unfavourable view and 15% say their view is neither favourable nor unfavourable.
And while all age groups are more negative than positive about Tate, young men stand out as being the most likely to approve of him and statements he has made.
The public correctly identify some behaviours or characteristics that apply more to either women or men, including going to prison or earning a high income for men, and caring for family or being sexually assaulted for women.
But large proportions are wrong on other facts related to gender divides in the UK. For example, over half the public believe there is no gender divide in starting a new business, yet among working-age people, 15.1% of men are involved in “total early-stage entrepreneurial activity” – which includes the owning or running of any business that is less than three and a half years old – compared with 10.7% of women.
And there is a clear gender divide in perceptions on some issues, with men more likely than women to think housework and care responsibilities are split equally.
Professor Rosie Campbell, Director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, said: “This data shows it’s not just young men’s attitudes that stand out. For example, young women are much more likely than any other group to think ‘toxic masculinity’ is a helpful term, and are most pessimistic about the prospect of future progress on gender equality.
“What we are seeing is a polarisation in the attitudes of young men and women towards gender equality that matches the gender split in party support in the younger age groups, with women to the left of men. We’re just at the beginning of understanding what’s driving this but the fact that this group is the first to derive most of their information from social media is likely to be at least part of the explanation.”