Days after a gunman killed two in a Tel Aviv gay youth centre, a poll has suggested that nearly half of Israelis think gays are deviants.

The poll, conducted by Israeli newspaper Haaretz, surveyed 498 people.

Forty-six per cent of the people surveyed answered yes to the question “Do you see homosexuality as a perversion?” Forty-two per cent said it was not, while 12 per cent did not know.

The percentage was highest among Orthodox Jews, with 71 per cent believing it was a perversion. Sixty-four per cent of Arab Israelis and 24 per cent of people who described themselves as secular agreed.

Professor Camil Fuchs, who conducted the survey, said that Saturday’s attack may also have a bearing on results.

He said: “It is possible that what we have here is a reaction to the trauma and also that hate-filled people think this is not the moment to admit it.”

Previous surveys have found higher levels of homophobia among the Israeli population.

Fuchs said a 2007 poll found homophobia at a comparable level to Bulgaria but the country was more liberal than Russia, Ukraine and South Korea.

On the low number of secular people seeing homosexuality as a perversion, he said: “In other countries there are also very conservative secular people. In Israel, in contrast, those who define themselves as secular have very liberal positions.”

Earlier this week, the ministry for welfare and social services released data suggesting that half of gay and bisexual teenagers in Israel have been a victim of physical or sexual abuse.

The research also showed that 80 per cent had suffered verbal abuse because of their sexual orientation.

Homosexuality is legal in Israel and cities such as Tel Aviv have a thriving gay nightlife.