Social attitudes survey finds far greater acceptance of homosexuality

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A government-backed survey has found that people have become much more tolerant of homosexuality in the last 30 years.

The British Social Attitudes survey found that 36 per cent of the 4,486 adults surveyed in 2008 thought homosexuality was “always” or “mostly” wrong.

In 1983, when the first such survey was carried out, 62 per cent thought homosexuality was always or mostly wrong.

In the latest survey, 39 per cent said that homosexuality was never wrong, while ten per cent said it was “rarely wrong”.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today show this morning, former EastEnders actor and out gay MEP Michael Cashman praised the courage of politicians for changing the law before public attitudes had caught up, but warned it was important not to get too “comfortable”.

He said: “There are still bastions of intolerance. We witnessed the vote last night in the House of Lords against equality.”

Cashman praised Stonewall and Peter Tatchell for helping change attitudes and laws, but added: “Even 12 years ago, it was still illegal to be gay. You could only have consensual sex in private with another man and the definition of private was so narrow as to be ludicrous.”

He argued that homophobia was still present in the tabloids, which was countered by former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie.

MacKenzie, who edited the newspaper between 1981 and 1994, said: “The reality is that in my days running the Sun if a pop star was suspected of being as homosexual, that was a story. Now the reverse is true. If he is homosexual it’s not a story at all.

“If you go to weddings of your families and friends you expect to see male partners together.”

He said that tabloids “couldn’t care a damn what sexuality [people] are”.

Although the survey showed a dramatic liberalisation in views towards homosexuality, it showed that people were becoming far less tolerant of cannabis.

Fifty-eight per cent said it should remain illegal, a rise of 12 per cent from 2001.

For the first time since 1989, more people said they considered themselves Conservative rather than Labour.

Only 14 per cent disapproved of unmarried couples living together and 27 per cent frowned on divorce if a child was under 12 years of age. Thirty-eight per cent disapproved of working mothers.