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How Have Britain’s Opinions About Gay People Changed?

How Have Britain’s Opinions About Gay People Changed?

Newly published results from a British national survey have found that 22% of the public still believe homosexual sex is ‘always wrong,’ but nationally the shift toward acceptance over the past three decades continues with strong momentum.

Called the British Social Attitudes survey and conducted by NatCen, the survey randomly selected from national addresses a sample of homes and then again randomly selected one adult from that home to create a sample size of 3,248 interviewees. The interviewees were asked a range of questions, from how happy they are with politicians to how important they think marriage is, over an hour long interview, with the respondents answering questions by selecting answers from a set of cards.

Now in its 30th year, the survey has since its launch asked the following (or roughly equivalent) question:

[Are] sexual relations between two adults of the same sex always wrong?; mostly wrong?; sometimes wrong?; rarely wrong?; or not wrong at all?

Briefly, and as mentioned above, 22% of respondents when answering in the latest survey (conducted in 2012) said sexual relationships between two adults of the same sex are always wrong. The figures for the other answers break down like this:

  • 6% mostly wrong
  • 7% sometimes wrong
  • 10% rarely wrong
  • 47% not wrong at all

We might speculate here and point out that the question is asking about sexual practices over sexual orientation and so, by virtue of that, may lead to more absolute answers from those religiously inclined, such as practicing Muslims, Catholics and Evangelicals.

We can also quibble and say that headlines using the phrase “Think Being Gay is Always Wrong” may not technically be true as, again, sexual practices and sexual orientation are, for Catholics for one, viewed differently.

However, the basic thrust seems clear: a sizable proportion (just over one fifth) of the British public appears to believe homosexual sexual relationships are morally offensive. How does this compare to previous years?

The figure is slightly up on the 2010 survey which found only 20% went for the “always wrong” option, but significantly lower than at the turn of the century when 37% answered in that regard, and dramatically lower than when the survey first began in 1983 when 50% of the population answered “always wrong.”

Researchers noticed a clear generational divide, and a correlation with political ideology, with Conservatives more likely to be against and those among the more liberal parties (Labour and the Liberal Democrats) more likely to say “never wrong” or “almost never wrong.” Conservatives, however, have through the life of the survey seen the most shift toward expressing a positive view of homosexuality — this evidenced in real-world events with Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron leading the charge for marriage equality, which will come into force by the summer of next year.

What is encouraging in these results is evidence that the dramatic shifting of weight toward the “rarely wrong” and “not wrong at all” categories has continued almost uninterrupted since the survey’s launch, with the report stating that among all the criteria assessed in the survey, the change in attitudes toward homosexuality has been one of the most dramatic.

Other areas that, for our purposes, may be of interest include that an overwhelming majority of respondents agree gay people should be able to teach in schools (83%) and “hold a responsible position in public life” (90%).

In addition, more than half of people surveyed agreed that “same-sex couples should have the right to marry if they want to” at 56%, which is a marked jump from 47% in 2007.

On adoption, however, things are slightly more muted, with under half of people (48%) agreeing that “homosexuals should be able to adopt a baby under the same conditions as other couples.” Once again though, that is a marked decrease from the 87% who opposed same-sex couples adopting in 1983.

So, despite some depressing reminders that prejudices can be stubborn, an overall positive picture has emerged from these results.

As such, a NatCen spokesperson is quoted as saying, “When we began the survey back in 1983, it was impossible to imagine a Conservative Prime Minister advocating gay marriage; now public opinion suggests that widespread acceptance of gay marriage and gay adoption is very much here to stay.”

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Photo credit: Thinkstock.

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49 comments

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9:59PM PDT on Sep 19, 2013

When I speak of "abnormal" or "deviant", I mean people who not average in some way. The person might be "abnormally" good at football. Or the person might be "deviant", because they are highly intelligent, which places them three standard deviations away from the mean. Usually we do not look down on these people; in fact we admire them.

I suspect that all of us are "abnormal" or "deviant" in some way. I have very slender hands and feet. Someone else might have photographic memory.

My guess is that there are as many people in the LGBTQ community as there are left handed people. Thank goodness, most of the developed countries no longer punish left handed people or force them to be right handed. It's time for the world to treat homosexuals the same way we treat everyone else.

1:52PM PDT on Sep 16, 2013

Please don't feed the troll. But I must applaud those who did respond. I am whole heartedly encouraged by the results.

I was once married to a genuine, born and raised Welshman. We went home to visit his family. He had a pair of very stylish, for the time pants. They were rectangles of tan, light brown, taupe, in a mock plaid pattern.

One of his friends took him aside and advised he shouldn't wear them in public, people were talking about him being gay.

That was 39 years ago. And we were married AND had a child. Needless to say he never wore the pants again.

See? Better!

2:03AM PDT on Sep 14, 2013

I don't believe that 20% of Brits are homophobes, I don't know any that are.There are still a small number of Brits (probably some people in every country) who think all sex is bad. There are probably some who have a phobia about the very idea of homosexual acts. Its hard to make people think rationally, especially about things they fear.
The UK is also seeing a rise in the number of immigrants who bring their cultures with them. Many of these cultures have less enlightened attitudes to sex outside marriage, and participants will answer a survey as their culture dictates not necessarily as their life is led. For "balance" these minorities have to be included in all surveys.

1:15AM PDT on Sep 14, 2013

noted

4:31PM PDT on Sep 13, 2013

continued,
John B: If ALL you have ever read, is the Bible, and similar stuff put out by ignorant preachers with blinders on, just the same stuff over & over again - then you have NO EDUCATION, and NO basis for thinking you "know" what went on in the world, in History or in different parts of the world. [Admittedly, the typical Public School Education is sadly lacking in these areas, also.]

.....Finally, Homosexuality and Transgenderism, are NOT the same thing. Homosexuality is being attracted, in a romantic/sexual way, to your same sex. Transsexuality, is being born in the body of one sex, and feeling a deep conviction inside, that you are actually the other sex. Your Transsexual self can be either homo- or hetero-sexual, or bi-sexual for that matter. Other cultures recognize this, by having DIFFERENT WORDS IN THEIR LANGUAGE that we don't have. They are SMARTER than we are in this - and less blinded by religious SUPERSTITION, which is all the demonization and criminalization of Homosexuality, is!

4:29PM PDT on Sep 13, 2013

John B: If ALL you have ever read, is the Bible, and similar stuff put out by ignorant preachers with blinders on, just the same stuff over & over again - then you have NO EDUCATION, and NO basis for thinking you "know" what went on in the world, in History or in different parts of the world. [Admittedly, the typical Public School Education is sadly lacking in these areas, also.]
I could give tremendous reading lists, to get you started on an Education. Just look up the word "berdache" in Wikipedia. You will see that Same-sex marriage was COMMON PRACTICE among the Native Americans of both North and South America. Several Native Tribes have made it legal on their reservations, AGAIN. {As sovereign nations, to a degree, they are not bound by State laws in this.} The Missionaries and Colonial rulers were totally shocked by what they saw - it went against their Religion so drastically! Christianity is NOT "universal" or universally good.
Oh, also while we're talking about getting an Education, read up on Biology too. There are some great articles {with pictures!} to look up on Care2, about Homosexuality in animals and birds.
Finally, Homosexuality and Transgenderism, are NOT the same thing. Homosexuality is being attracted, in a romantic/sexual way, to your same sex. Transsexuality, is being born in the body of one sex, and feeling a deep conviction inside, that you are actually the other sex. Your transsexual self can be either homo- or hetero-sexual, or bi-sexual for t

4:15PM PDT on Sep 13, 2013

John B:" It goes against the survival of the species. This is why it has been viewed as a crime in the past." Wrong, and Wrong again. Homosexuality is UNIVERSAL, in all countries, cultures, races, religions, colors, climates, levels of civilization and technology, and in all historical eras; and UNIVERSAL across species also. As Sandra S. said, there is good reason for thinking of it as AIDING species and community survival. For that reason, in many cultures, Homosexuality was HONORED, not criminalized. It is mainly {or perhaps ONLY} within the Abrahamic religions {Judaism and Christianity and, to a somewhat lesser degree, Islam, that being Gay was demonized. In cultures thruout the world, before the advent of Colonialism and in some cases even afterwards, Homosexuality existed and was at the very least tolerated, if not regarded as a Blessing also. The FIRST anti-Gay laws in these cultures, came in with European Colonial rulers and Missionaries.
There are NUMEROUS Source Materials in History and Anthropology and stories of early explorers, and Jesuits and other Missionaries, that testify to these FACTS. It was, in fact, the OUTLAWING of Homosexuality, that was a "Deviation" from the Norm of Human Communities!!!

4:15PM PDT on Sep 13, 2013

GOOD ON THEM...

3:24PM PDT on Sep 13, 2013

John B., as a former psychotherapist let me explain to you that homosexuality is NOT deviant. Homosexuality is a matter of biology and occurs across species, not just in humans.

If you do not understand that, please take a university level course in biology and psychology and zoology and you may come to understand that homosexuality is NOT deviant.

If you base your opinion on religious belief, then consider this: judge not, lest you be judged.

1:53PM PDT on Sep 13, 2013

Y'all are being pretty nice to John B... I won't be! What an a-hole you are John B. I was thoroughly and completely offended by your inane and twisted comments! Listen up-- I don't need help and I am gay... the only "help" I need is to be treated as a equal and respect. I have never once doubted or questioned my gender; and I have known that I was "different" from at least the age of 6. I love both men and women; I just don't want to have sex with women and I certainly don't want to have sex with ALL men. Your argument is inept and I am NO deviation!

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