Social Acceptance of LGBT People in 174 Countries

1981 to 2017
October 2019

This report analyzes survey data from 174 different countries to produce the Global Acceptance Index, a measure of the relative level of social acceptance of LGBT people and rights in each country. The report was conducted as part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Global Development Partnership.

The average levels of acceptance for LGBT people and their rights have increased globally since 1981.
Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Canada, and Spain are the top five most accepting countries, and acceptance has increased over time.
This report updates and expands a previous study, Polarized Progress: Social Acceptance of LGBT People in 141 Countries, 1981 to 2014.
Data Points
countries have experienced an increase in acceptance since 1981
countries experienced no change in acceptance
countries saw a decrease in acceptance

Executive Summary

This report describes updates to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Global Acceptance Index (GAI), which seeks to measure the relative level of acceptance of LGBT people and issues in each country during a specific time period.

Understanding the acceptance and rejection of LGBT people lies at the heart of understanding violence, discrimination, and a multitude of negative consequences arising from exclusion and unfair treatment. Sexual and gender minorities all over the world are heavily impacted by the attitudes and beliefs of those around them. Low levels of acceptance are tied to bullying and violence, physical and mental health problems, discrimination in employment, and underrepresentation in positions of civic leadership. Additionally, exclusion can result in lower levels of workforce productivity and decreased business profits.

Updates to the Global Acceptance Index

We updated the Global Acceptance Index to measure acceptance in 174 countries through 2017. We initially assessed 176 geographic locations (including countries and territories), but present results from 174 countries in this report. Acceptance is the extent to which LGBT people are seen in ways that are positive and inclusive, both with respect to an individual’s opinions about LGBT people and with regards to an individual’s position on LGBT policy. Updates included an expanded database of social surveys measuring acceptance of LGBT people in a larger number of countries (174 versus 123) and over additional years (through 2017 versus through 2014), as well as modifications to the estimation process to increase estimation accuracy.

Findings: Continued Polarization

Globally, the average level of acceptance has increased from 1981.

  • 131 of 174 countries experienced increases in acceptance from 1981.
  • 16 countries experienced a decline.
  • 27 countries experienced no change.

In the past decade, the range of levels of acceptance has increased. Levels of acceptance have become more polarized:

  • The most accepting countries have experienced increased levels of acceptance; Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Canada, and Spain are estimated to have the highest levels of acceptance between 2014-2017 and all have increased in their levels of acceptance.
  • The least accepting countries have experienced decreased levels of acceptance; Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, Senegal, Tajikistan, and Somaliland are estimated to have the lowest level of acceptance between 2014-2017 and all have decreased in their levels of acceptance.
  • Levels of acceptance in countries near the global average have stayed relatively stable.

Our previous report concluded that there was “polarized progress” in the trajectory of acceptance of LGBT people across the globe. The present report updates this by showing that the degree of polarization has lessened. Substantially more countries increased on acceptance than countries that have decreased. While some polarization remains, the updated estimates suggest increases in LGBT acceptance are far more common than decreases.

Download the full report

Social Acceptance of LGBT People in 174 Countries