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Measuring homophobia

When respondents to the WVS6 were asked if they would like to have homosexual neighbours, 50% (of 80,995) respondents answered that they would not. This proportion of persons in the total sample, who would be unwelcoming to homosexual neighbours, is defined in this chapter as the homophobia rate. This overall homophobia rate of 50% masked, however, considerable variable by region. Figure 6.1 shows that homophobia was highest in the ex-Soviet Union countries, with 72.4% of respondents not wanting homosexual neighbours, followed by approximately two-thirds of respondents in Islamic and African countries that were similarly minded. On the other hand, homophobia was lowest in Western and Latin American countries, where, respectively, 21.4% and 26.8% of respondents would not welcome homosexual neighbours.

There is also another way to shed light on homophobia. The WVS6 asked respondents to score on a scale of 1 to 10 whether they thought homosexuality was “justifiable” with 1 representing “never justifiable” and 10

Proportions not wanting homosexual neighbours, by world region (%) Source

Figure 6.1 Proportions not wanting homosexual neighbours, by world region (%) Source: Own calculations, World Values Survey 6.

Note: Total of 77,395 respondents.

representing “always justifiable”. In this chapter, the original scores of 1 to 3 were recoded as 1 (“not justifiable”), the original scores of 4 to 7 were recoded as 2 (“ambivalent” about justifiability), and the original scores of 8 to 10 were recoded as 3 (“justifiable”). Figure 6.2 shows that nearly 64% of 79,400 respondents thought that homosexuality was “unjustifiable” - on a par with the proportion that regarded abortion as unjustifiable and slightly below the proportion that took a similar view of prostitution - while only 44% of nearly 73,000 respondents felt that sex before marriage could not be justified.

There was, however, considerable variation between the world’s regions in the proportions of their respondents who regarded homosexuality as “unjustifiable”. As Figure 6.3 shows, this proportion was highest in Islamic countries (87.8%), countries of the ex-Soviet Union (82.8%), and African countries (74.5%) and was lowest in Western countries (31.2%). The proportions regarding homosexuality as “unjustifiable” were broadly similar in Latin American (48.6%) and Asian countries (52.1%).

Although it is possible that there was an overlap between those who regarded homosexuality as “unjustified” and those who would not like to have a homosexual neighbour, this overlap would not necessarily be perfect. Examining attitudes towards homosexual neighbours by those who viewed homosexuality with varying degrees of justifiability, showed (Figure 6.4) that fewer than two-thirds (65%) of those who thought it “unjustifiable”,

Proportion of respondents who regarded these activities as “unjustifiable” (%)

Figure 6.2 Proportion of respondents who regarded these activities as “unjustifiable” (%)

Source: Own calculations, World Values Survey 6.

Proportions that regarded homosexuality as “unjustifiable”, by world region (%)

Figure 6.3 Proportions that regarded homosexuality as “unjustifiable”, by world region (%)

Source: Own calculations, World Values Survey 6.

Note: Total of 79,400 respondents.

Proportion not wanting homosexual neighbours for various degrees of justifiability (%)

Figure 6.4 Proportion not wanting homosexual neighbours for various degrees of justifiability (%)

Source: Own calculations, World Values Survey 6.

Note: Total of 39,096 respondents.

and more than one in 10 of those regarding homosexuality as justifiable (13%), would not like homosexual neighbours. On the other hand, as Figure 6.5 shows, of those not wanting homosexual neighbours, 83% regarded homosexuality as “unjustifiable”, 14% were ambivalent about whether homosexuality was justified, and 4% thought it to be “justifiable”.

Earlier in this chapter, tolerance was defined as putting up with something that one did not approve of. Using the two definitions of homophobia, set out earlier - namely, not wanting a homosexual neighbour and regarding homosexuality as unjustifiable - one can estimate the tolerance for homosexuality in the world. Homophobia in the sense of not wanting homosexual neighbours can emanate from two sources. The first is persons who regarded homosexuality as “unjustifiable”. Such persons are “intolerant” because they are not prepared to put up with something of which they disapprove. The second source is those who either regard homosexuality as “justifiable” or are agnostic about its justifiability. Such persons are “conformists” in the sense that they suppress their liberal beliefs in order to conform to what they perceive to be societal norms.16 The outcome with respect to homophobia is the result of both intolerance and conformity.

These ideas can be made more precise through a formal model. Suppose that one can separate the sample of N respondents into two mutually exclusive groups: an illiberal group (consisting of M persons) that

Attitudes towards homosexuality by those not wanting homosexual neighbours

Figure 6.5 Attitudes towards homosexuality by those not wanting homosexual neighbours

Source: Own calculations, World Values Survey 6.

regards homosexuality as “unjustifiable” and a liberal group (consisting of N - M persons) that views homosexuality as “justifiable”. Then M/N and (N -M)/N are defined, respectively, as the illiberal and liberal rates: these rates are the percentage of respondents who regarded homosexuality as, respectively, “unjustifiable” and “justifiable”. Suppose that a total number of О persons would not welcome a homosexual neighbour so that the homophobia rate is Q/N.

Now suppose that of the M persons that were illiberal (i.e., regarded homosexuality as unjustifiable), H would not welcome a homosexual neighbour (H < M) while of the N - M persons who were liberal (i.e., regarded homosexuality as justifiable), G would not welcome a homosexual neighbour (G < N — M). Then the ratios H/M and G/(N — M) are defined, respectively, as the intolerance and conformity rates. Then the homophobia rate can be decomposed in terms of the four rates defined earlier - illiberal, liberal, intolerance, and conformity - by expressing it as the weighted sum of the intolerance and the conformity rates, the weights being the illiberal and the liberal rates:

Table 6.3 shows the values of the five rates of equation (6.8) in terms of the six regions distinguished in this chapter. Aggregating across all the regions, there were a total of 77,395 respondents (N) of whom 39,096 (O) said that they would not want homosexual neighbours, yielding a homophobia rate of O/N = 50.5%. Of the 49,805 persons (M) who regarded homosexuality as unjustifiable, 32,364 (H) did not want homosexual neighbours. This yielded an intolerance rate of H/M = 65% and an illiberal rate of M/N = 64.4%. Of the 27,590 persons (N - M) who either regarded homosexuality as justifiable or were agnostic about its justifiability, 6,732 would not want homosexual neighbours, resulting in a conformity rate of G/(N - M) = 24.4% and a liberal rate of (M - N/N) = 35.6%. Applying the right hand side (RHS) of equation (6.8) to these numbers yields the left hand side (LHS), O/N=50.5%.

Table 6.3 shows that 65% of those who regarded homosexuality as unjustifiable would not tolerate a homosexual neighbour. Since the intolerance rate could take values between H = 0 (a homosexual neighbour would be accepted by everyone who regarded homosexuality as unjustifiable) and H = M (a homosexual neighbour would not be accepted by anyone who regarded homosexuality as unjustifiable), 65% of illiberal persons - those who regarded homosexuality as “unjustifiable” - were intolerant of homosexuals. On the other hand, the conformity rate shows that about one in four liberals (24.4%) - those who either regarded homosexuality as “justifiable” or were agnostic about its justifiability - would also be homophobic. In other words, if homophobia was entirely the preserve of illiberal

Table 6.3 Intolerance and conformity rates by region (%)

Intolerance

Rate

Conformity

Rate

Illiberal

Rate

Liberal

Rate

Homophobia

Rate

Islamic

69.6

50.9

87.8

12.2

67.3

Africa

73.6

44.4

74.5

25.5

66.1

Ex-Soviet Union

78.1

49.4

82.8

17.2

73.1

The West

49.2

8.6

31.2

68.8

21.3

Latin America

39.2

16.2

48.6

51.4

27.3

Asia

52.3

32.1

55.3

44.7

43.3

Total

65.0

24.4

64.4

35.6

50.5

Source: own calculations, World Values Survey 6.

Note: Intolerance Rate = proportion of those who regarded homosexuality as unjustifiable, not wanting a homosexual neighbour; Conformity Rate = proportion of those who regarded homosexuality as justifiable, not wanting a homosexual neighbour; Illiberal Rate = proportion of total sample that regarded homosexuality as unjustifiable; Liberal Rate = 100 - Illiberal Rate; Homophobia Rate = weighted average of intolerance and conformity rate, the weights being, respectively, the illiberal and liberal rates (see equation (6.8)).

persons who regarded homosexuality as “unjustifiable”, the homophobia rate would be 41.9%.17 The fact that, as shown in Table 6.3, it was actually 50.5%, was due to the homophobia of liberals who contributed nearly nine additional points to the incidence of homophobia in the world.

The regional data show that an illiberal attitude towards homosexuals was most pronounced in Islamic countries and least evident in Western countries. As Table 6.3 shows, respectively, 87.8% and 31.2% of respondents in these regions viewed homosexuality as unjustifiable (the illiberal rate). Of the 14,636 illiberal respondents in Islamic countries, and of the 4,545 illiberal respondents in Western countries, respectively, 69.6% and 49.2% expressed homophobia (the intolerance rate).

Countries of the ex-Soviet Union and African countries had the highest intolerance rates and, except for Islamic countries, the highest illiberal rates with, respectively, 74.5% and 82.8% of respondents in these regions regarding homosexuality as unjustifiable. Of the 7,272 illiberal respondents in African countries and of the 11,922 illiberal respondents in ex-Soviet Union countries, respectively, 73.6% and 78.1% expressed homophobia (the intolerance rate).

Asian and Latin American countries displayed comparable levels of illiberality - respectively, 55.3% and 48.6% of their respondents regarded homosexuality as unjustifiable - but the level of intolerance was much higher in Asian than in Latin American countries with 52.3% of illiberal respondents in Asia but only 39.2% of such respondents in Latin America expressing homophobia.

An important and relevant question that emerges from the preceding analysis, which establishes a formal link between attitudes to homosexuality and homophobia, is the contributions that the different regions made to illiberality (i.e., regarding homosexuality as unjustifiable) and homophobia (as reflected in not wanting homosexual neighbours). For example, 14,636 of the total of 49,805 illiberal respondents (29.4%) and 11,222 of the total of 39,096 homophobic respondents (28.7%) lived in Islamic countries (Figure 6.6). So the shares of Islamic countries in illiberality and homophobia were approximately equal. Asian countries tell a similar story: 12.3% of illiberal (6,139 out of 49,805), and the same percentage of homophobic (4,805 out of 39,906) respondents lived in Asian countries.

In contrast, as Figure 6.6 shows, countries of the West and Latin American countries contributed more to illiberality (respectively, 9.1% and 10.6%) than they did to homophobia (respectively, 7.9% and 7.6%). The contributions of African and ex-Soviet Union countries to illiberality (respectively, 14.6% and 23.9% of the 49,805 illiberal respondents were from Africa and the ex-Soviet Union) was smaller than their contributions to homophobia (16.5% and 26.9% of the 39,096 homophobic respondents were from Africa and the ex-Soviet Union, respectively).

Regional contributions to illiberality and homophobia (%) Source

Figure 6.6 Regional contributions to illiberality and homophobia (%) Source: Own calculations, World Values Survey 6.

 
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