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The Roles of Politics, Feminism, and Religion in Attitudes Toward LGBT Individuals: A Cross-Cultural Study of College Students in the USA, Italy, and Spain

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Abstract

While it is clear that there are existing prejudices directed toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people across the globe, very few studies have provided in-depth investigations of such attitudes from an international comparative perspective, and no cross-cultural studies to date have investigated attitudes toward bisexual and transgender individuals. Without understanding how correlates of attitudes toward LGBT individuals are both similar and different across multiple international locations, it is unclear how we can learn to counteract negative prejudices toward these groups. In the current study, we explore how measures of politics, feminism, and religion affect attitudes toward LGBT individuals using Worthen’s (2012) Attitudes Toward LGBT People Scales and data from four college student samples in Oklahoma, Texas, Italy, and Spain (N = 1311). Results suggest three trends: (1) negative attitudes toward LGBT individuals are more pervasive in Oklahoma than in any of the other university samples and are most positive among Spanish students; (2) negative attitudes toward LGBT individuals are related to the individual and multiplicative effects of political beliefs, feminism, and religiosity across all four samples; and (3) constructs related to attitudes toward gays/lesbians differ from those that relate to attitudes toward bisexual and transgender individuals. Such findings indicate that there are important similarities and differences in prejudices toward LGBT individuals and that attitudes toward bisexual and transgender individuals should be included in future international comparative research.

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Notes

  1. Cisgender is a label for individuals who have a match between the sex they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their

    personal gender identity (Worthen 2013).

  2. For example, in the 2012 US presidential elections, all 77 counties in Oklahoma supported Republican candidate Romney; thus, Oklahoma is sometimes described as “the reddest state in the USA” (npr.com 2008).

  3. Students were asked to take the survey and they told that if they did not want to complete the survey, they could sit quietly and read while others were completing the survey. The instructor was asked to leave the room while students completed the survey in order to reduce any potential biasing effects that might result from the presence of the instructor.

  4. It is important to note that the structures of the US and European university systems do differ in ways that may affect the study body composition. For example, most European universities are “public” institutions, in which fees to attend are relatively low (most universities charge an enrollment fee between 500 and 1500€), while US universities require tuition payments that are much higher (ranging from $5000/year to more than $30,000 per year) (Sheng 2012). Thus, there may be some differences in socioeconomic status between the US and European samples.

  5. US respondents were recruited from sociology classes, but only 26 % were sociology majors. Even so, it is important to note that some US research has shown that those with academic majors in humanities and liberal arts, especially those in majors that have classes about gender and sexuality (such as sociology), have been found to be more supportive of gay men and lesbian women when compared to students majoring in business and hard sciences (Bierly 1985; Larsen, Reed, and Hoffman 1980).

  6. The survey was originally created by the first author, who is American, in English and the second and third authors, who are both Italian, translated the survey into Italian. The Spanish version was translated by a mother tongue Spanish psychologist who collaborated on the administration of the survey in Spain.

  7. The majority of students in Spain were recruited from Madrid, while in Italy, most students were from Rome. Students were recruited from several universities, for Spain, Complutense, Università Autonoma, Alicante, Rey Juan Carlos, Carlos Tercero, and Santiago de Compostela, and for Italy, University of Milan, University of Turin, University of Rome, University of Siena, and University of Ancona. To test for differences by university, we ran each model with dummy variables to control for potential university effects. Results show that there were not significant differences by particular university in Spain or Italy, supporting the grouping of “Italian” and “Spanish” students.

  8. The most common major among the European respondents was psychology (39 %) followed by liberal arts (19 %), law (11 %), engineering (9 %), medicine (7 %), and business (5 %).

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Correspondence to Meredith G. F. Worthen.

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Support for this research was supported by two sources of funding awarded to the first author from the University of Oklahoma, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Presidential International Travel Fellowship.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Appendix

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Table 4 Variables that comprise the attitudinal scales by four locations9

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Worthen, M.G.F., Lingiardi, V. & Caristo, C. The Roles of Politics, Feminism, and Religion in Attitudes Toward LGBT Individuals: A Cross-Cultural Study of College Students in the USA, Italy, and Spain. Sex Res Soc Policy 14, 241–258 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-016-0244-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-016-0244-y

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