LGBT rights in eastern Europe: explaining financial benefits makes a big difference to people’s views – new findings

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2/9/22

Across eastern Europe, it’s still very difficult to pass laws and policies designed to advance LGBT inclusion. With LGBT+ History Month underway, some Ukrainians are worried that their country’s fragile progress in LGBT rights will be set back by a Russian invasion. A top court in Hungary has just ruled that it was acceptable for a pro-government newspaper to run an article describing a book of queer fairy tales as “paedophilic”. Georgia’s pride march was cancelled in 2021 after LGBT activists and journalists were violently attacked by far-right groups. Around the same time, Polish municipalities were declaring themselves to be “LGBT-ideology free zones”. And there was a spate of violent attacks against LGBT people in Turkey. To combat LGBT discrimination in eastern Europe and around the world, one answer might be to demonstrate that equal rights might have widespread economic benefits. To this end, we have just published research into what determines support for sexual minorities in Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine. We chose these countries because they have some of the lowest rates of social acceptance of sexual minorities in Europe, and among the most restrictive laws and policies towards LGBT people. To test whether rational economic self-interest might overcome personal taste for LGBT people, we decided to give a group of people some information about the direct economic costs to their country from discriminating against sexual minorities. To do this, we asked them how much they thought that non-discriminatory policies could affect annual income in their country per capita in the medium term, and then showed them evidence-based forecasts. We were also interested in understanding whether myths about homosexuality being a mental illness or disease might be driving anti-gay sentiment in these countries. So in another arm of our experiment, we tried to “debunk” this myth by informing individuals that the World Health Organization (WHO) does not consider homosexuality to be a mental disease. In both cases, we did this as part of a randomised online survey experiment where a third of our respondents received the “discrimination cost” information, a third received the “myth debunking” information, and a third received information unrelated to LGBT people. The study involved representative groups of 2,200 people in each country, aged between 18 and 70.

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