Study Finds Age, Religion and Politics Impact LGBTQ Acceptance

By Michelle Zipkin

While many societies and governments around the world have learned to accept LGBTQ + communities, many others condemn homosexuality and deem homosexual behavior illegal. And while same-sex marriage and inclusive anti-discrimination laws are in place in some parts of the world, many LGBTQ + rights are still absent or under attack in many other countries. This year the Pew Research Center published the results of a 2019 survey of 38,426 people in 34 countries, describing how populations of different cultures and demographics vary their positions on accepting homosexuality.

Global acceptance of homosexuality in many countries has increased over the past 15 years or so; 72% of Americans say homosexual lifestyles should be accepted, up from 49% in 2007, and South Africa and South Korea have seen significant increases in their acceptance over the past 20 years. Pew indicated that acceptance of gay communities varies across countries and regions in terms of several key factors, including generation, education, income, gender, religious affiliation or lack thereof, political position and national wealth.

Around the world, Pew has found that people who are part of a religious group are generally less accepting of homosexuality than people who are not associated with a religious group. Atheists, agnostics, or those the report calls “non-religious” generally accept homosexuality more often. Conversely, religious groups, which in Pew’s investigative group tend to be Christians, are less welcoming of the ways of being gay and lesbian. One such example is in South Korea, where non-religious people are about twice as likely to support acceptance of homosexuality as Christians and Buddhists.

Among the countries studied with Muslim communities large enough to be assessed, very few individuals who practice or adhere to Islam are supporters of homosexuality. Among Nigerian Christians and Muslims, however, acceptance of homosexuality is equally low, standing at 6% and 8% respectively. In Israel, 53 percent of Jews tolerate homosexuality, compared to just 17 percent of Muslims.

Unsurprisingly, those who point to the political right tend to accept homosexuality less than those on the political left. To that end, more American Democrats believe that homosexuality should be accepted compared to American Republicans. According to the report, over 80% of Democrats and Democrats-leaning independents support acceptance of homosexuality, compared to 58% of Republicans and Republican-leaners.

Likewise in Europe, supporters of right-wing populist parties tend not to favor gay and lesbian lifestyles. Globally, people who identify with the ideological left are generally more accepting of homosexuality than those who conform to the ideological right. In South Korea, people who are ideologically on the left are more than twice as likely to support homosexuality as those on the right.

A country’s wealth also plays an important role in determining whether its population accepts homosexuality. The richer the country, the more its inhabitants accept to be compared to the poorest countries. And in terms of education level, people in countries with higher education rates are much more inclined to accept homosexuality than those who are not as educated.

Although Pew’s survey did not indicate any substantial disparity between men’s and women’s positions on homosexuality, in the 12 countries with a notable difference, women were more likely to support homosexuality than men.

Even though the majority of people in 16 of the 34 countries studied in total say that homosexuality should be accepted, vast global divisions still exist. The report showed that 94 percent of those polled in Sweden believe in accepting homosexuality, while only 7 percent of those living in Nigeria share this belief. Among the countries surveyed, a median of 52% of people said they supported accepting homosexuality, but 38% said they rejected it.

At the regional level, the report indicates that communities in Western Europe and North America are the most accepting of gay and lesbian lifestyles. In Central and Eastern Europe, the acceptance of homosexuality remains a subject of division. Fewer percentages of populations in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Russia and Ukraine support acceptance of homosexuality. However, South Africa and Israel are the outliers in their regions, where 54 percent and 47 percent of respondents are for pro-gay acceptance, respectively.

Those residing in the Asia-Pacific region are also divided on the issue. About 81 percent of Australian respondents and 73 percent of Filipinos support acceptance of homosexuality, while 9 percent of Indonesians feel the same, according to the report. Unfortunately, compared to other countries in Western Europe and North and South America, a greater percentage of people in the United States are less accepting of homosexual lifestyles. While the Supreme Court recently ruled that federal law protects employees on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, 27 US states still do not have non-discrimination laws that include these classifications in employment, housing and public housing, depending on FreedomForAllAmericans.org. Non-discrimination laws also vary from state to state. In Wisconsin, laws exclude transgender people from protections against discrimination. In Utah, the law protects LGBTQ people in housing and employment, but not in public housing. In addition, hate crime laws including LGBTQ do not exist in all US states. Instead, a patchwork of laws varies across states regarding the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity, according to Movement advancement project.

Michele Zipkin is a reporter for the Philadelphia Gay News, where this story first appeared.

Minnie J. Leonard