Survey: A quarter of people in the UK disagree with homosexuality, but acceptance continues to rise

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A new survey has found that 1 in 4 people in the UK still disagree with homosexuality, but that on the whole acceptance continues to rise.

The 30th edition of the annual government-funded British Social Attitudes survey found that 22% of respondents thought that “sexual relations between two adults of the same sex” were “always wrong.” A further 6% described them as “mostly wrong.”

On the other hand, 47% of respondents thought that same-sex relations were “not wrong at all,” with a further 10% describing them as “rarely wrong.”

The figures form part of an encouraging trend however, with the percentage of those stating that same sex relations are either “always” or “mostly” wrong falling from 36% in 2008. When the survey began in 1983, the figure stood at 62%, before reaching a peak of 75% in 1987 in the wake of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

The figures also indicate a marked increase in the acceptance of homosexuality over the last ten years, when the proportion of respondents agreeing that same sex relations were ‘not wrong at all’ stood at just 37%.

The report describes the change in public opinion towards homosexuality as “perhaps the most dramatic attitude shift of all” over the last 30 years, and found that each successive generation is more liberal than the one before.

In 1983, only 41% of respondents thought it “acceptable for a homosexual person to teach in a school,” while just 53% felt it was acceptable for a homosexual to “hold a responsible position in public life.” In 2012, these figures had risen to 83% and 90% respectively.

However, issues such as adoption and same-sex marriage continue to prove divisive: just 48% agreed that “homosexuals should be able to adopt a baby under the same conditions as other couples,” though the figure has dropped markedly from the 87% who opposed it in 1983.

On the issue of same-sex marriage, 56% agreed that “same-sex couples should have the right to marry if they want to,” up from 47% in 2007.

British Social Attitudes commented that: “When we began the survey back in 1983, it was impossible to imagine a Conservative Prime Minister advocating gay marriage; now public opinion suggests that widespread acceptance of gay marriage and gay adoption is very much here to stay.”

The report also broke down its statistics by political identification, finding that 35% of self-identifying Conservatives thought homosexuality was “mostly” or “always” wrong, compared to 29% of Labour supporters and 22% of Liberal Democrats.

However, the Conservative figure had decreased more than any other party over the last ten years, down from 51% in 2003.

The survey also found that religious belief was closely linked to attitudes about homosexuality: Only 16% of those who weren’t religious saw homosexuality as “always” or “mostly” wrong, compared to 35% of Catholics and 40% of Anglicans.

The British Social Attitudes survey has been conducted annually since 1983. It is designed to gauge changing social and political opinions, and involves asking over 3000 participants what it’s like to live in Britain and how they think Britain is run.

The full  British Social Attitudes survey is available to view here.