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Acceptance of same-sex relationships falls in the UK

Acceptance of same-sex relationships falls in the UK

Approval for same-sex relationships dips slightly in the UK

The number of people in the UK who say they are comfortable with same-sex relationships has dipped slightly. It’s down from 68% in 2017 to 66% in 2018.

The annual British Social Attitudes (BSA) has been conducted since 1983 by the National Centre for Social Research.

When it began in the 1980s, the majority of people reported feeling discomfort around same-sex relationships.

In 1983, just under 20% said sexual relations between two adults were ‘not wrong at all’. This figure fell to just over 10% in the mid-80s, at the height of the AIDS crisis. However, this has steadily risen since the late 1980s.

The British Social Attitudes survey
(Image: © British Social Attitudes survey)

At the same time as support for same-sex relationships dips, approval for pre-marital sex has also plateaued. It has remained around the 75% mark over the past three years. Those who expressed religious beliefs were more likely to disapprove of same-sex relationships and pre-marital sex.

‘Attitudes have changed quite a lot’ since survey began looking at same-sex relationships

Nancy Kelley, deputy chief executive of the National Centre for Social Research, told Sky News: ‘In 1983, people would have been happy to say they are not comfortable with same-sex relations.

‘Obviously, attitudes have changed quite a lot since then.

‘I think it’s reasonable to assume that we will see that same liberalisation as we saw in attitudes to gay and lesbian people with the trans community as the public becomes more accustomed to it.’

Although the survey, which polls 4,000 people and is backed by the UK government, has been asking about same-sex relationships since 1983, it is only in recent years that is has added questions relating to transgender people.

It finds 83% report themselves ‘not prejudiced at all’ against gender transition. However, fewer than half (49%) said prejudice against transgender people was ‘always wrong.’ Fifteen percent described themselves as ‘very’ or ‘a little’ prejudiced against transgender people.

Helen Belcher, of Trans Media Watch, told Gay Star News: ‘Surveys like this show trends and sometimes have one-off dips. It’s not clear that society’s attitudes are reversing based on one study, but it is clear there is still a lot of work to do to educate the public about LGBT people.

‘The media has an important role in this, and the study shows that the relentless negative coverage of trans people in the mainstream press over the last couple of years has had surprisingly little impact. Instead it appears to have halted awareness or caused more confusion.’

‘Worrying trend’

LGBTI rights activist Peter Tatchell told The Guardian the figures represent a ‘worrying trend.’

Laura Russell of LGBT rights charity Stonewall told GSN: ‘We know we need to change more people’s attitudes before everyone feels free to be themselves.

‘This is crucial because many LGBT people still don’t feel safe in Britain. Far too many experience hate crime, discrimination and abuse in their day-to-day lives. We need everyone who cares about equality to help make change happen … to come out in support of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people everywhere.’

Rise in hate crime

A minority (13%) believe that the process transgender people go through reflects ‘a very superficial and temporary’ need, compared with 62% who disagree.

It’s been previously noted that there has been a marked increase in hate-crime within the UK. A Guardian analysis published last month found offences doubled since 2014 against gay and lesbian people and trebled against trans people.

A separate analysis by the BBC found an 81% jump in anti-trans hate crimes between 2017 and 2018.

Experts believe some of the hate crime rises could be down to more people feeling confident to report such crimes to authorities. Others point to a rise in anti-trans rhetoric in the media during public consultation on the Gender Recognition Act. Others also point to a rise in extremist rightwing viewpoints in the media since the Brexit referendum of 2016.

See also

Trans hate crimes surge 81% in the UK

Anti-LGBTI hate crimes in Scotland reach record highs