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This survey showing how people’s opinions on homosexuality have changed since 1989 is eye-opening

Nick Duffy October 24, 2019
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Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher is seen giving her last speech as Prime Minister. (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

Just 13 percent of people in the UK now believe that homosexuality is “morally wrong”, according to a new survey.

Researchers at the King’s College London Policy Institute compared data from 1989 Ipsos MROI polling on social attitudes to an identical poll conducted 30 years later, shedding light on how much the British public’s attitudes on gay issues have shifted over the last three decades

People have changed a lot since 1989.

The poll reveals that just 13 per cent of people now believe that homosexual relationships between consenting adults are morally wrong, compared to 40 per cent when the poll was run in 1989.

Just 13 percent of people now believe that homosexuality is morally wrong
Just 13 percent of people now believe that homosexuality is morally wrong

While men in 1989 were significantly more likely than women to oppose gay relationships, researchers noted that the “gender gap in opinion has now been virtually eliminated”.

However, attitudes towards gay people still strongly correlate with political stance in 2019.

In 1989, only 52 per cent of people agreed that “homosexuals should be treated just like other people”, which has risen to 82 per cent today, with 64 per cent strongly agreeing overall.

But while 76 per cent of Remain supporters, 75 per cent of Liberal Democrat voters and 69 per cent of Labour voters strongly agree that gay people should be treated the same as other people, the same is true of just 51 per cent of Leave supporters, 51 per cent of Conservative voters and 46 per cent of Brexit Party supporters.

Beliefs about homosexuality still correlate with age and political stance
Beliefs about homosexuality still correlate with age and political stance

The public have also adopted markedly more liberal attitudes towards drug use, euthanasia, abortion and nudity.

Cannabis and homosexuality see rapid acceptance.

However, the only issue on which beliefs have changed faster than homosexuality is cannabis use, which 60 per cent of people in 1989 thought was immoral, compared to just 29 per cent today.

Professor Bobby Duffy, director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London, said: “These findings show Britain has become decisively more liberal on a range of moral issues in the last 30 years.

That we’ve gone from being a country in which four in ten thought gay relationships were not just wrong but immoral, and in which only half thought gay people should be treated just like anyone else, to the society we see today, all in the space of a few decades, shows just how much attitudes can change.”

Beliefs about homosexuality have shifted significantly since 1989
Beliefs about homosexuality have shifted significantly since 1989 (the year, not the Taylor Swift album)

He added: “One of the causes of this shift is that Baby Boomers – who grew up in more permissive times – have moved into older age, replacing a generation born before World War II, who had more conservative views. The result is that what were once pressing moral concerns have become simple facts of life for much of the public.”

The poll replicated the methodology and questioning of the 1989 study, and was based on face-to-face interviews in respondents’ own homes.

The researchers noted: “The wordings of the statements have been kept consistent to ensure comparable trends, even where concepts and language have moved on.”

Related topics: 1989, Gay, Homosexuality, King's College London, poll

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