Analysis: British attitudes to gays are changing
The Stonewall survey published today is one of the most wide-ranging examinations of attitudes in the Britain towards the gay community.
The results are heartening – even 49% of Daily Telegraph readers think that prejudice against gay and lesbian people should be tackled.
Here, PinkNews.co.uk gives you some in-depth analysis of this landmark piece of research.
The You.Gov survey for Stonewall is entitled Living together: British attitudes to lesbian and gay people.
2009 people of all backgrounds, ages, religious beliefs etc were surveyed.
They were asked about:
lesbian and gay people and their legal rights
gay people as family and friends
gay people in public life, including politics and the media
awareness of anti-gay prejudice and discrimination
causes of anti-gay discrimination
responsibility for tackling prejudice against lesbian and gay people
The aim of the research was to understand the nature of feelings towards lesbian and gay people in Britain today.
% who would feel ‘very comfortable’, ‘comfortable’ or ‘neutral’
A footballer in the team you support 92%
A work colleague 92%
A member of the royal family 88%
Your MP 87%
Your boss in a new job 87%
A close friend 86%
Another relative 80%
Your brother or sister 78%
Your GP 78%
Your child 73%
Your child’s teacher 73%
Your local religious representative 71%
Not enough acceptance (e.g. at work or in school) 66%
Religious attitudes 59%
Parental attitudes 53%
Tabloid newspapers 51%
Not enough support from institutions (e.g. councils) 32%
Broadsheet newspapers 13%
Not enough legal protection 13%
Local authorities 10%
School (pupils) 53%
Manual work 46%
Health care 23%
University (students) 16%
The arts 3%
Liberal Democrat 43%
Scottish National Party 8%
Plaid Cymru 7%
United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) 6%
British National Party 2%
None of them 36%
% of readers of each newspaper who agree:
The Guardian 98%
The Independent 85%
The Daily Star 76%
The Mirror 76%
The Sun 75%
The Times 74%
The Express 67%
The Daily Mail 65%
The Daily Telegraph 49%
Laws to protect LGB people
% who support the legislation
Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
Protection from discrimination and harassment for gay employees
Civil Partnership Act 2004
Partnership rights for same sex couples, similar to civil marriage
The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007
Makes it unlawful to refuse people services, such as health care, on the grounds of their sexual orientation
Incitement to homophobic hatred – not yet a criminal offence
Would make it unlawful to incite hatred n the grounds of sexual orientation, similar to existing laws for race
Who Is Responsible?
Homophobia in schools
Gay people in public life
A large majority of people (an average of 86%) say their opinion of celebrities such as Sir Elton John, Will Young and Martina Navratilova did not change when they found out they were gay.
People in Britain are increasingly supportive of equal legal treatment for gay people, and are increasingly comfortable having gay people in their lives (this includes people who say they are very comfortable, comfortable or neutral about this).
This does not just apply to people they don’t know personally, such as MPs or members of the royal family.
It also applies to close friends and family, the people who they work with, and people who provide public services.
They would feel comfortable if a range of different people were gay, including their children, their GP, or their local religious leader.
Even in a sport like football, where there are no openly gay premiership players, almost all people (92%) would be comfortable having a gay player on their team.
Among those who would feel uncomfortable about this, the majority would not change teams as a result.
Attitudes are changing
Previous research commissioned by Stonewall (Profiles of Prejudice, MORI for Stonewall, 2003) showed that people felt less comfortable about GPs, teachers and managers being gay compared to 2007.
People in Britain are increasingly supportive of equal legal treatment for gay people.
They would feel comfortable if a range of different people were gay, including their children, their GP, or their local religious leader.
Gay person 2003
Your GP 26%
Your child’s teacher 20%
Your boss 18%
Gay person 2007
Your GP 14%
Your child’s teacher 18%
Your boss 7%
We asked what people would do if they were uncomfortable about someone being gay. In almost all cases, people would not do anything differently.
They would not change jobs if they were uncomfortable with their boss being gay, and they wouldn’t change teams if a footballer were gay.
How much public prejudice remains?
Only a quarter of people say they have a low opinion of lesbians and gay men. However, more than half of all people (55 %) think there is general public prejudice against gay people in Britain today.
4 million people (13 %) across the national workforce have witnessed anti-gay bullying at work.
Two-thirds of people say that the cause of anti-gay prejudice is a general lack of acceptance by institutions and organisations such as workplaces and schools.
They also think that religious and parental attitudes have a negative impact, as do tabloid newspapers and the media in general.
Where does anti-gay prejudice occur?
A large number of people from across Britain are aware of, or have witnessed, anti-gay prejudice in action.
People recognise that anti-gay prejudice exists in a range of different sectors, from schools to workplaces and from the media to politics.
Almost a fifth of people think TV is responsible for anti-gay prejudice, while just over half blame tabloid newspapers.
Nearly three-quarters of people feel that the media frequently uses gay people as the subject of jokes.
83% also believe that the media relies heavily on clichéd stereotypes of gay people.
This supports findings from Stonewall’s 2006 Tuned Out report, which documented the use and impact of gay stereotypes broadcast on BBC television.
More than nine in ten people support laws, introduced in 2003, protecting lesbians and gay men from discrimination at work. Most people would also be comfortable with a gay boss or colleague.
Anti-gay bullying at work is widespread.
Physical bullying also occurs at work, and has been seen by 4 % of workers – over 1.2 million people.
People also suggested where they felt lesbian and gay people were unlikely to be open about their sexual orientation.
The results reflect which fields are thought to be gay-friendly and which are thought to be discriminatory.
A large majority of people (87%) would be comfortable if their MP was lesbian or gay.
This is particularly the case for women, people from ethnic minorities and younger people.
More than a quarter of people feel that one of the solutions to tackling discrimination is to have more gay MPs in Britain.
More than half of the British public thinks that gay people are likely to conceal their sexual orientation in politics – Liberal Democrat supporters are most likely to think this.
No single political party is seen as gay-friendly by a majority of people.
Women, younger people and people from ethnic minorities are the least likely to think of any political party as gay-friendly.
Visible lesbian and gay MPs indicate a political party is progressive and modern, which is likely to appeal to marginalised groups.
In 2007 there is only one openly lesbian MP in the House of Commons, and none in the House of Lords.
Over a third of people (38 %) feel that TV and newspapers have a responsibility to reduce anti-gay prejudice – more so than parents, the government or the police.
People believe that the media is not doing enough, and instead relies heavily on clichéd stereotypes of, and jokes about, gay people.
Half of the population agrees that the BBC has an obligation to portray lesbians and gay men accurately, so wider society can understand lesbian and gay issues.
63% of people aged 18-29 agree with this.
If the younger generation expects this from the BBC in 2007, future generations are likely to have even higher expectations about how their licence fee is spent.
Tuned Out (Stonewall, 2006) found that many licence payers feel that the BBC has a responsibility to serve and represent lesbian and gay people.
There is a significant discrepancy in how newspapers’ contribution to anti-gay prejudice is perceived, and their readers’ own views of gay people.
Tabloid newspapers are singled out by more than half of the people in Britain for fuelling prejudice against lesbian and gay people.
However, 39 % of Sun readers say they have a high opinion of gay people – 5 % more than the national average.
While almost all Guardian readers (98%) think that anti-gay prejudice should be tackled, Daily Telegraph readers are half as likely to agree with this (49%).
Contrary to claims made by some religious leaders, the majority of ‘people of faith’ support laws to protect the rights of lesbians and gay men, and want to see anti-gay discrimination tackled.
84% of religious people disagree with the statement, “homosexuality is morally unacceptable in all circumstances.”
Religion, however, is seen by many to be a major cause of anti-gay prejudice and three in five people believe that gay people would conceal their sexual orientation within the religious sector.
The majority (83%) of ‘people of faith’ support laws allowing gay people protection from discrimination in areas such as health care and social services.
More than nine in ten believe that homophobic bullying of children in Britain’s schools must be tackled.
More widely, the vast majority of them (88%) support legislation making it illegal to incite hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation, similar to existing laws on religion and race hatred.
More than four-fifths of ‘people of faith’ say they would be comfortable being friends with a lesbian or gay man – they have almost as many gay friends as people with no declared religion.
The majority of religious people (64%) say they would be comfortable if their local religious representative was gay.
Overall, many religious people believe that lesbians and gay men should be open about their sexual orientation, no matter what.
Who is prejudiced against gay people?
Contrary to what is sometimes believed, only a small minority of people express an intolerance of lesbians and gay men and disagree with their right to legal equality.
For instance, only one in 20 people say they don’t like lesbians and gay men.
Fewer than one in ten people disagree with legal protection for gay people at work and less than one in ten think that anti-gay bullying in schools should not be tackled.
Women, ethnic minority people and younger people are most likely to acknowledge that anti-gay prejudice exists, and to want it addressed.
There are also regional differences.
In general, older white British men are least likely to support legal equality for lesbian and gay people.
They are more likely to believe that anti-gay prejudice is not an important issue and should not be tackled.
This reflects patterns described in studies, including Profiles of Prejudice (MORI for Stonewall, 2003) and Understanding Prejudice (Stonewall, 2004).
Almost 17 million adults witnessed anti-gay bullying in school and nine out of ten people want the problem to be tackled.
More than four in five people think teachers and head teachers should be responsible for this. Schools should develop policies that comprehensively address anti-gay bullying.
More than nine in ten people support laws protecting lesbian and gay employees from discrimination. Yet almost 4 million people have witnessed anti-gay bullying at work.
One in three people think employers should be responsible for addressing anti-gay prejudice. Employers should ensure they fully comply with the law and tackle all forms of bullying and harassment.
Almost nine in ten people would be comfortable if their MP was lesbian or gay. Nine in ten people want to see legislation against inciting hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The government should now amend the next Criminal Justice Act. Political parties should actively encourage lesbian and gay people to become MPs and councillors.
Almost a fifth of people think TV is responsible for anti-gay prejudice, and just over half blame tabloid newspapers. More than four in five people in Britain feel that the media relies heavily on clichéd stereotypes of gay people.
Significant numbers of people (38%) feel that TV and newspapers have a responsibility to reduce anti-gay prejudice. The media should portray lesbian and gay lives realistically.
More than four out of five ‘people of faith’ support laws allowing gay people protection from discrimination in health care and social services, while a further four in five believe that homophobic bullying in schools should be tackled.
Religion, however, is seen by more than half of people as one of one of the main causes of anti-gay prejudice. Religious organisations should address the apparent disconnect between the anti-gay views of some religious leaders, and the attitudes of ordinary ‘people of faith’.
More from PinkNews
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 2,009 adults. The fieldwork was undertaken between 3rd and 10th October 2006.
The survey was conducted using an online interview administered to members of the YouGov Plc GB panel of over 115,000 individuals who have agreed to take part in surveys.
An e-mail was sent to panellists selected at random from the base sample according to the sample definition, inviting them to take part in the survey and providing a link to the survey.
The responding sample was weighted to the profile of the sample definition to provide a representative reporting sample.
The profile is normally derived from census data or, if not available from the census, from industry accepted data. The resulting data was analysed and presented by Stonewall.