How tolerant is that, then?

January 26, 2010

Much is being made in the UK media (eg, the Guardian, BBC) about the latest social attitudes survey, showing we are a more tolerant society.

In particular, attitudes towards gay people have improved markedly. Back in 1983, 62% of people thought sexual relations between two same-sex adults was “always or mostly” wrong. The figure has dropped dramatically and now stands at 36% (well, as of 2007, which is when the data were collected).

But before we hang out the bunting to congratulate ourselves on our new-found tolerance, let’s remember that means that more than one person in three still thinks that gay sexual relations are wrong. Hardly a ringing endorsement for liberal Britain.

To quote Jean Cocteau: “I will not agree to be tolerated. This damages my love of love and of liberty.”

For those who want to dig deeper into the data, the NatCen (National Centre for Social Research) data can be downloaded from the Guardian website here as a Google spreadsheet.

(Update: Looking at the data, 1987 was the zenith of anti-gay sentiment, when 75% of respondents said gay sex was always or mostly wrong, with only 11% believing it was not wrong at all. That latter figure now stands at 39%).

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