cool paper on public opinion and homosexuality

Tina, a Scatterista, has a new paper in Public Opinion Quarterly showing that attitudes towards homosexuals don’t fit the age-stability pattern (i.e., people stick with the same ideas as the age). From her recent post describing the paper:

In terms of explaining why Americans experienced a shift after 1990, we turn to social movements. Both Canada and the United States have LGBT movements. However, in the United States, activists in the religious right have produced a strong push against lesbian and gay rights. In Canada, the religious right is much weaker. In the U.S. in the 1990s, religious right groups proposed a series of ballot initiatives, introduced sexual conversion (”ex-gay”) therapy as a cure for homosexuality, and re-wrote sodomy laws to target only same-sex couples. Further, the religious right’s activism to exclude same-sex couples from the institution of marriage has produced not only a federal policy prohibiting gay marriage, but similar policies in 2/3 of the states. As we discussed in Shamus’s post, however, this activism has not had an overall negative impact on attitudes. While it has caused some people to hold more strongly negative attitudes, many more people have expressed more positive attitudes. Indeed, the attitudinal scale in Canada leans much more to the middle, which is not exactly neutral according to the question wording, but can reasonably be interpreted that way. The U.S. responses, however, have a much higher proportion responding with stronger opinions on both the positive and negative sides.

To sum up, then, we find that people of all age groups have changed their minds about homosexuality, and we argue that social policies and activism have driven these shifts in attitudes. Social policies have pushed attitudes in the expected direction, but anti-gay activism has also pushed attitudes in a positive (though bifurcated) direction.

Excellent work! Who says the median voter rules all?


Written by fabiorojas

June 3, 2008 at 12:02 am

Posted in fabio, sociology

4 Responses

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  1. Interesting paper. Wang and Buffalo (2004) produced similar findings with respect to abortion attitudes.



    June 3, 2008 at 2:34 pm

  2. You are too kind, Fabio!



    June 3, 2008 at 7:58 pm

  3. Excellent paper! Thanks for the head’s up. I’m finishing off a US paper on shifts in attitudes towards same-sex marriage in the US. Much of the focus is on how religious and political ties influence shifts in attitudes across cohorts. Republican party stalwarts and sectarian christians have minimal value shift, and in some cohorts fundamentalist christians actually have more conservative responses than in 1988 (when same sex marriage often drew a “HUH” response, and hence there may have been less polarization).



    June 4, 2008 at 1:25 am

  4. […] More on public opinion, social movements, and gay rights […]


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