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Let Them Be, Not Adopt: General Attitudes Towards Gays and Lesbians and Specific Attitudes Towards Adoption by Same-Sex Couples in 22 European Countries

Abstract

By relying on two items included in the 8th round of the European Social Survey (2016–2017), this article compares general attitudes towards gays and lesbians and attitudes towards the specific issue of adoption by same-sex couples in 22 countries. Ordered logit multilevel models reveal that age, education and religiosity have a weaker association with attitudes towards adoption than with attitudes towards homosexuality in general. In contrast, at the contextual-level, the presence of laws and policies ensuring rights for the LGBTI population is positively associated with both attitudes to a similar extent. However, models with random slopes and cross-level interactions reveal important differences in the way critical individual-level characteristics operate in different contexts. In particular, across countries, youth, higher educated and secular respondents display more positive attitudes towards homosexuality regardless of whether their country recognizes legal rights to LGBTI people. Instead, these individual characteristics are associated with positive attitudes towards adoption by same-sex couples only in countries that are more progressive in terms of LGBTI rights. These results point to the existence of “mixed opinions” in the way people in Europe think about rights for gays and lesbians and indicate that large attitudinal gaps persist even in the most progressive countries.

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Fig. 1

Source: Own calculation on ESS8 data and ILGA data

Fig. 2

Source: Own calculations on ESS, ILGA and World Bank data

Fig. 3

Source: Own calculations on ESS, ILGA and World Bank data

Fig. 4

Source: Own calculations on ESS, ILGA and World Bank data

Notes

  1. 1.

    For each variable we have no more than 5% missing observations.

  2. 2.

    We acknowledge that other macro level variables could be informative for the study of attitudes towards same-sex relationships. However, given the focus of article on comparing general versus specific attitudes, we decided to restrict the focus on variables that had been already used in previous studies on the topic and that offer a solid insight in attitudes towards homosexuality.

  3. 3.

    Discrete changes are calculated as first differences in the probabilities of agreeing strongly between 1 standard deviation above the average of the independent variable of interest and its average, holding constant at the mean the other covariates (Long 1997).

  4. 4.

    The predicted probabilities and discrete changes of the individual level variables of interest are calculated at one standard deviation below the mean of the ILGA Index and one standard deviation above such mean.

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Correspondence to Mario Quaranta.

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Dotti Sani, G.M., Quaranta, M. Let Them Be, Not Adopt: General Attitudes Towards Gays and Lesbians and Specific Attitudes Towards Adoption by Same-Sex Couples in 22 European Countries. Soc Indic Res 150, 351–373 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-020-02291-1

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Keywords

  • Attitudes towards adoption
  • Homosexuality
  • Gay and lesbian couples
  • European social survey
  • Europe