Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is seen as the second most widespread type in the EU, according to a new survey of 27,000 people across the Union.

Only racial discrimination was more prevalent.

Last month the European Commission proposed a cross-cutting directive aimed at combating discrimination on grounds of age, disability, religion or belief and sexual orientation in areas outside the field of employment, such as goods and services.

51% of respondents said discrimination against gay, bisexual and lesbian people is widespread, (13% very widespread and 38% fairly widespread), as opposed to 41% who think that it is rare.

Three percent think discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation is non-existent in their country and 6% ‘don’t know’.

Sexual orientation discrimination is particularly widespread in Mediterranean countries.

The three countries where it is seen as most widespread are Cyprus, Greece (both 73%) and Italy (72%). Portugal (65%) and France (59%) also have results above the EU average of 51 %.

The UK was just below the average among the 27 EU nations, with 50% thinking discrimination against gay, bisexual and lesbian people is widespread.

Bulgaria and the Czech Republic came bottom of the list, despite the fact that Pride events in both countries were violently attacked last weekend.

Other results from the Eurobarometer survey showed that the youngest respondents (59%) see discrimination against gays as being more widespread than the oldest (45%).

It is seen as more common by respondents on the political left (54%) than those in the centre (49%) or on the right (50%).

Sexual orientation discrimination is perceived as slightly more widespread by women (52%) than by men (49%).

Respondents who stayed in education until at least the age of 20 (52%) are more likely to see it as widespread than those who finished studying at the age of 15 or younger (48%).

On the question of whether discrimination based on sexual orientation is now less widespread than five years ago, virtually all nationalities think so, with the exception of Hungarians, 48% think it is now more widespread and 43% that it is less widespread.

Just 1% of citizens across the EU report having been discriminated against on the grounds of sexual orientation in the past year, but that figure rises to 5% in Italy.

A higher proportion of respondents think they have witnessed discrimination taking place – 6% is the EU average.

Swedes (13%) and Austrians (10%) are the most likely to say this.

In Bulgaria 1% said they had seen discrimination against gay people, and 2% in Lithuania and Malta.

The survey found that the average European is largely comfortable with the idea of having a homosexual person as a neighbour, with an average of 7.9 on the ten-point ‘comfort scale.’

45% say that they would be totally comfortable with this (i.e. a score of 10/10).

Nine percent give the spontaneous answer that they would be indifferent.

Swedes (9.5) are the most comfortable with this idea, followed by Dutch and Danish respondents (9.3).

A much lower level of comfort is seen in Bulgaria (5.3), Latvia (5.5) and Lithuania (6.1).

Respondents who stayed in education until the age of 20 or over (8.5) are more comfortable than those who finished education when they were aged 15 or younger
(7.2).

Women (8.1) show a higher comfort level than men (7.6) and those aged 55 or over show a lower than average level of comfort (7.4).

Read the entire Eurobarometer report here.