The Pew Research Center, as part of a fascinating new report on global attitudes toward homosexuality, asked people in 39 different countries a deceptively straightforward question: “Should society accept homosexuality?” People could answer yes, no or decline the question.
The “yes” answers are mapped out above. In red countries, less than 45 percent of respondents said homosexuality should be accepted by society. In blue countries, more than 55 percent said it should be accepted. Purple countries fall in that middle range of about half.
(1) Sub-Saharan African and Muslim-majority countries are the least accepting of gays.
It’s not even close. While there’s wide variation in places like Latin America and Europe, Africa is almost uniformly anti-gay. Nigeria is the only surveyed country where just one percent say society should accept homosexuality; 98 percent said society shouldn’t. Results are under 10 percent for almost the entire continent, including sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa, which has closer cultural ties to the Middle East. The important exception is South Africa, famous for its gay rights movement, where a still-low 32 percent answered “yes.”
Muslim-majority countries tended to reject homosexuality, with results under 10 percent for Islamic societies from Africa to Southeast Asia to the Middle East. The only exception is Lebanon, although the country is only about two-thirds Muslim. Only 2 percent of Pakistanis and Tunisians – who are generally considered cosmopolitan by Mideast standards – said society should accept gays.
To be clear, though, some Christian-majority countries also overwhelmingly say that society shouldn’t accept homosexuality: Ghana and Uganda, both in sub-Saharan Africa.
(2) Western and Latin American countries the most accepting of gays.
As with the data we examined earlier on racial tolerance, European, Anglophone and Latin countries seem to be the most accepting. In fact, only one country outside of those three categories had more than half of respondents accepting homosexuality: the Philippines (more on this later).
The two most accepting countries are Spain and Germany, with 88 and 87 percent, respectively, answering “yes.” Generally, tolerance seems to decline further East in Europe, with about half of respondents in Greece and Poland accepting homosexuality.
Russia, infamously weak on gay rights, scored below Lebanon, with only 16 percent saying gays should be accepted. It doesn’t take long to find anecdotal evidence. On Saturday, a Russian official announced that the country would ban same-sex couples from adopting children out of the country’s notoriously over-filled and sometimes dangerous orphanage system. On Monday, a Russian airport official was beaten to death for being gay.
The U.S. also lags behind much of the Western world by this metric, with only 60 percent answering “yes.” Interestingly, with so many U.S. states now allowing same-sex marriage, those states are ahead of much of Europe on gay rights despite the overall low score on this survey.
(3) Acceptance is rising in the U.S., Canada and South Korea.
Here’s an interesting detail from Pew’s report: Attitudes about homosexuality have been fairly stable in recent years, except in South Korea, the United States and Canada, where the percentage saying homosexuality should be accepted by society has grown by at least ten percentage points since 2007.
It’s actually grown most quickly in South Korea, where’s it’s more than doubled from 18 to 39 percent. That’s still lower than you might expect, though; South Korea is the least accepting of homosexuality among the world’s rich, developed countries. Japan, at 54 percent, isn’t much better.
(4) Religious countries tend to be less accepting of gays.
Pew put together this chart of religiosity versus tolerance of homosexuality, for which they found a pretty clear correlation. (Each of those little dots represents a country; dots further to the right represent more religious countries; dots further to the bottom represent countries that are less accepting of homosexuality.)
Source; Washington Post