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Charting changing attitudes – Same-sex relationships

Posted on 27 July 2017 by NatCen, Research
Tags: gay marriage, transgender, gay, sexuality, social and political attitudes

One of the most remarkable changes in attitudes uncovered by NatCen’s British Social Attitudes survey of the past 30 or so years has been how the public views same-sex relationships.

On the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, a law which partially decriminalised sex between two men, this short blog takes us through exactly how far the country has moved on this issue.

In 1987, at the height of the AIDS crisis, those who agreed that same-sex relationships were “not wrong at all” were in the minority (11%). Two thirds (64%) said that they were “always wrong”.

Today it is those who believe same-sex relationships are always wrong who are in the minority (19%). As we can see from the chart below, this shift in attitudes has accelerated in recent years, especially among those of a Christian faith. 

Proportion agreeing same-sex relationships are not at all wrong 

Time series acceptance of same sex couples all and christian

Alongside the change in attitudes to same-sex relationships in general, we have also seen a shift in terms of how the public views same-sex marriage.

In 2014, 60% agreed that same-sex couples should have the right to marry, compared with 47% in 2007. Although the proportion who “strongly agree” with the principle of same-sex marriage was still only around a third. 

Strongly agree same-sex couples should have the right to marry one another

Same sex couples right to marry 2014 and 2007

In 2012, we asked about same-sex couples adopting children, finding that a little more than four in ten agreed a same-sex couple can bring up a child as well as a male-female couple. 

Proportion agreeing a same-sex couple can bring up a child as well as a male-female couple

Belief same sex couple able to raise child as well as heterosexual couple

While this suggests the public was quite divided on this issue, interestingly, the level of support for same-sex adoption is not that different to the level of acceptance of same-sex relationships in 2012. Several years on attitudes to same-sex relationships have become considerably more accepting so we shouldn’t be surprised if attitudes to adoption by same-sex couples have moved in the same direction. 

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