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World attitudes to being gay: Progress continues but ‘sharp divides’

World attitudes to being gay: Progress continues but ‘sharp divides’

  • We rank all 34 countries in the study from the most accepting to the least.
Stockholm, Sweden.

The public’s attitude towards ‘homosexuality’ is sharply divided between countries, new research has confirmed.

The study showed significant improvement in some countries, for example the US, in public attitudes. 

However in the worst country in the survey, Nigeria, just 7% of the population thinks society should ‘accept homosexuality’.

The independent Pew Research Center, based in the US, conducted the survey. It asked 38,426 people face-to-face or via phone, the same question:

‘Which one of these comes closer to your opinion? Homosexuality should be accepted by society OR Homosexuality should not be accepted by society.’

The researchers conclude that ‘public opinion on the acceptance of homosexuality in society remains sharply divided by country, region and economic development’.

The researchers note that the word ‘homosexuality’ seems outdated. However, they found it the easiest word to use to apply consistently with other surveys and to translate it accurately into different languages and cultures.

Progress in South Africa, India, Turkey, Japan, US and UK

The Pew Research Center has asked the same question in some countries since 1994 and last surveyed on in 2013.

That’s allowed it to measure huge progress. The number of people in support is up by 22% in South Africa and India, 16% in Turkey, 14% in Japan, 12% in the US and 10% in the UK since 2013.

In the US, just 46% accepted homosexuality in 1994 with 49% not accepting. The new survey shows 72% now accept homosexuality while just 21% don’t.

However, there has also been a drop in support in some nations since 2013. The number of supporters is down by 1% in Germany, 2% in Russia and 5% in Greece and Lebanon.

There has also been a massive 21% drop in support in the Czech Republic. However, that may be due to them switching survey methods.

But even in countries where acceptance is low, there has been progress. LGBT+ campaigners have long seen Kenya as a country likely to decriminalize homosexuality soon. Just 14% of the population in Kenya support acceptance now. But that is up from just 1% in 2002.

Meanwhile, the average for the 34 countries indicates the world is now more accepting than not. 52% said society should accept homosexuality, compared to 38% who think it should not.

Youth, women and better educated more accepting

Moreover, the researchers found significant differences within countries’ populations.

As is often the case, younger people are more supportive of LGBT+ citizens.

The difference is biggest in South Korea, revealing a split between the traditional and K-Pop generations. There 23% of those aged 50 or over are accepting, compared to 79% of 18 to 29-year-olds.

Meanwhile South Korea is also one of 12 countries where the researchers noted women were more likely to be accepting than men. 

The split in the Southeast Asian country is 51% of women are accepting, compared to 37% of men. But Japan, Canada, Poland, Argentina, UK, South Africa, Australia, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Netherlands all had gender splits – with women more accepting in each case.

Likewise, those with better education tend to be more accepting. Greece has the biggest difference with 42% of the lesser educated population accepting compared to 72% of those who are more educated.

Equally those who are ‘left’ leaning in politics are more accepting than those who are ‘right’. In particular, people in Europe who view right-wing populist parties favorably are far less accepting than voters who oppose those parties.

Finally, the researchers found big differences in attitudes on the basis of religion. Those who think religion is very important were less accepting than those who don’t think it’s important.

The biggest gap in this case was Israel. There 22% of those who say religion is important accept homosexuality. But that figure rises to 62% among those who don’t think religion matters much.

Ranked: How each country scored

So how does your country score? Here are the 34 countries ranked. The percentage is the number of people who think society should accept homosexuality.

  • 1 Sweden 94%
  • 2 Netherlands 92%
  • 3 Spain 89%
  • 4= UK 86%
  • France 86%
  • Germany 86%
  • 7 Canada 85%
  • 8 Australia 81%
  • 9 Argentina 76%
  • 10 Italy 75%
  • 11 Philippines 73%
  • 12 USA 72%
  • 13 Mexico 69%
  • 14 Japan 68%
  • 15 Brazil 67%
  • 16 Czech Republic 59%
  • 17 South Africa 54%
  • 18 Hungary 49%
  • 19 Greece 48%
  • 20= Israel 47%
  • Poland 47%
  • 22= South Korea 44%
  • Slovakia 44%
  • 24 India 37%
  • 25 Bulgaria 32%
  • 26 Lithuania 28%
  • 27 Turkey 25%
  • 28= Kenya 14%
  • Russia 14%
  • Ukraine 14%
  • 31 Lebanon 13%
  • 32= Indonesia 9%
  • Tunisia 9%
  • 34 Nigeria 7%