Cross-National Differences in Attitudes towards Homosexuality

By Tom W. Smith
May 2011

In five rounds of surveys between 1988 and 2008 the International Social Survey Program (ISSP) has asked questions about homosexuality (www.issp.org). In 1988, the ISSP asked in eight countries about gay marriage (“Do you agree or disagree? Homosexual couples should have the right to marry one another.”). In 1991, 1994, 1998, and 2008 the ISSP inquired about approval of same-gender-sexual behavior (“And what about sexual relations between two adults of the same sex, is it always wrong, almost always wrong, wrong only sometimes, or not wrong at all?”). This paper examines 1) trends in attitudes towards homosexuality, 2) the rank of countries regarding their attitudes towards homosexuality, 3) cross-national differences, 4) the distribution and bimodality of attitudes, and 5) cross-national patterns related to key socio-demographics (gender, age, education, attending religious services, and urbanicity).

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This report was prepared with support from the Charles R. Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law.