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"Homo-Negativity" Is a Worldwide Phenomenon

New research examines attitudes towards homosexuality across 23 countries.

Wikimedia Commons Public Domain
Source: Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

Despite global efforts to promote tolerance and inclusion, "homo-negativity" is a pervasive and worldwide phenomenon. Same-sex sexual activity is against the law in more than 70 countries. In some places, it is punishable by death.

But what is the basis for homo-negativity? And which countries are least, and most, to blame?

New research forthcoming in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science examined these important questions. Specifically, a team of researchers led by Maria Laura Bettensoli of New York University in Abu Dhabi tested people's attitudes toward gay men and lesbian women in 23 countries around the world. The countries included in their analysis were Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the United States.

Summarized below are five key takeaways from their multi-national research effort.

Takeaway #1: Spain has the most positive attitudes toward homosexuals. Russia has the most negative attitudes.

The researchers found that homosexuality was viewed most favorably in Spain, Belgium, Great Britain, Sweden, and Canada and least favorably in Russia, Hungary, Turkey, Peru, and South Korea.

Takeaway #2: The United States ranks in the middle of the pack.

Compared to other countries, people in the United States aren't particularly favorable or unfavorable toward homosexuals. In this survey, Americans' self-stated positivity toward gay men earned them a rank of 12th (out of 23) while their positivity toward lesbian women earned them a rank of 10th.

Takeaway #3: Attitudes toward lesbian women are more positive than attitudes toward gay men in every country measured.

Lesbians are met with less intolerance than gay men, but that's not to say that bias against lesbians doesn't exist. Interestingly, the disparity in attitudes toward gay men and lesbian women was most pronounced in Russia and Hungary (these two countries are particularly intolerant of gay men). Conversely, India and Spain showed the least discrepancy in attitudes toward gay men and lesbian women.

Takeaway #4: Western countries, not surprisingly, tend to hold more positive attitudes toward gay men and lesbian women.

Of the 23 countries measured, none of the non-Western countries ranked in the top 10 on favorability toward gay men or lesbian women. India ranked highest among non-Western countries, in 14th place.

Takeaway #5: In the United States, women are more prejudiced than men against lesbian women.

Past research has found that men tend to hold more negative attitudes toward sexual minorities. This, however, was not always the case in Bettensoli's study. The researchers state, "Only in China, France, and Italy did men report more negative attitudes toward lesbian women. In Mexico and the United States, women were significantly more prejudiced than men on the evaluations of lesbian women. [...] We found that in several countries (including the United States), men and women did not significantly differ in their attitudes toward gay men."


Bettinsoli, M. L., Suppes, A., & Napier, J. L. (2019). Predictors of Attitudes Toward Gay Men and Lesbian Women in 23 Countries. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 1948550619887785.