A study has suggested that negative attitudes to gay and lesbian people are now more prevalent than racism.

The research, carried out by the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology, found that the 60 volunteers surveyed were more likely to show negative attitudes to gays and lesbians than towards any other area of diversity, such as race, gender, age or disability.

Lead researcher Dr Pete Jones said: “Prejudiced attitudes are incredibly difficult to measure, as in today’s society admitting to racism, sexism or ageism has severe consequences.

“So to discover people’s real attitudes we measured our participants’ ‘implicit’ attitudes – associations in our minds that we’re not aware that we have – using a set of computer-based tests.”

Results from the tests classified seven per cent of the participants as being strongly anti-gay and three percent as being anti-lesbian.

A further 35 per cent displayed some anti-gay predilection and 41 per cent some anti-lesbian prejudice.

These negative implicit attitudes were stronger than those for age, gender, religion, disability or even ethnic origin, where 28 per cent of the sample showed some prejudice towards Asian people, 25 per cent against black people and 18 per cent against south-east Asian people.

Dr Jones added: “Without detracting from the seriousness of the prejudice that still exists against people because of their ethnic origin, the results of our study suggest that being gay or lesbian could be ‘the new black’ when it comes to being a victim of prejudice.”