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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 22
Most countries more accepting of homosexuality
Section One
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Most countries more accepting of homosexuality

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

A new cross-national study shows a vast majority of countries have become more accepting of homosexuality. The trend, however, is slower or reversed in Russia and other ex-Socialist countries.

With support from the Williams Institute, a report by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago presents new findings on the cross-national differences in attitudes towards homosexuality. Based on five rounds of surveys administered in different countries between 1988 and 2008, the report examined general trends and ranked countries regarding their attitudes towards homosexuality.

The study concludes, 'Overwhelmingly, societies have become more accepting of homosexual behavior.'

Thirty-one countries were identified with data that showed trends in public opinion about homosexual behavior. Of those, approval of homosexuality increased in 27 countries, and in only four countries did it decrease: Russia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, and Latvia. Moreover, the growth in approval was stronger than the decline.

According to the data, the one regional trend that was identified was that changes tended to be slower or reversed in Russia and other ex-Socialist countries. The five countries with the highest acceptance of homosexuality ratings are the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, and Belgium-Flanders.

The bottom half of the list consisted of seven ex-Socialist states, four East Asian nations, three Latin American countries, Cyprus, South Africa, and Turkey. For example, in Russia, 59% of the population felt that homosexual behavior was wrong in 1991 compared with 64% in 2008. In 2008, only 8% felt homosexual behavior was 'not wrong at all.'

Many countries, including the United States, showed a bimodal distribution, an indication that many people have strongly held opinions about homosexuality. For example, in 2008, the vast majority of respondents in the United States selected an option that was at one of the extremes of the opinion scale: 54% said homosexual behavior was 'always wrong' while 32% indicated it was 'not wrong at all.' Only 11% selected a response in the middle, such as 'almost always wrong' or 'wrong only sometimes.'

The report also found that attitudes towards homosexuality are more tolerant among younger adults, those with more education, those attending religious services less often, and residents of large metropolitan areas. This pattern prevailed in almost all countries and the relationships are substantial in most countries. With regard to gender, women tend to be more approving of homosexual behavior than are men in most countries, but the differences are smaller and less consistent than other socio-demographics.

Tom W. Smith, senior fellow and director of NORC, authored the report for the Center for the Study of Politics and Society at NORC/University of Chicago. Established in 1941, NORC is one of the largest and most highly respected social research organizations in the United States. For more information, visit www.norc.org.

For the full report, visit http://www3.law.ucla.edu/williamsinstitute/pdf/Smith-CrossNational-NORC-May2011.pdf

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