Global acceptance of LGBTs has increased around the world

  • by Heather Cassell
  • Wednesday April 25, 2018
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Swedish Minister for Social Affairs Annika Strandhäll waves a rainbow flag at a Pride parade. Photo: Courtesy of TT/The Local Sweden
Swedish Minister for Social Affairs Annika Strandhäll waves a rainbow flag at a Pride parade. Photo: Courtesy of TT/The Local Sweden

Researchers at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law determined in three newly published reports that the average level of acceptance of LGBT people around the world has increased since 1980.

Acceptance of LGBT people has increased in 80 out of 141 countries during the last nearly four decades, according to the institute's M.V. Lee Badgett, distinguished visiting scholar, and Andrew R. Flores, visiting scholar. Additionally, 46 countries experienced a decline and 15 experienced no change, according to the reports, which were published April 18.

The Williams Institute has conducted global research since its inception 17 years ago.

The researchers and lead authors' findings were published in three separate reports, "Polarized Progress: Social Acceptance of LGBT People in 141 Countries, 1981 to 2014," "Examining the Relationship between Social Acceptance of LGBT People and Legal Inclusion of Sexual Minorities," and "Links between Economic Development and New Measures of LGBT Inclusion."

The most accepting countries were Iceland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and Andorra, reported "Polarized Progress," which used data from the Global Acceptance Index. These countries were also the ones with the greatest increase in LGBT acceptance since 1980 and acceptance was continually increasing, according to the "Polarized Progress" report.

The least accepting countries were Azerbaijan, Georgia, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, and Egypt from 2009 to 2013.

New lens

Badgett and Flores developed new statistical methods to create the Global Acceptance Index.

Then, they applied the index, along with the Legal Count Index and the Legal Environment Index, to examining decades of research.

The Global Acceptance Index examines public opinion data during specific time periods to measure the relative level of social acceptance of LGBT people and rights in each country.

"This is the first to focus solely on social acceptance from social and public opinion surveys," wrote Flores in an email interview with the Bay Area Reporter. He noted that most other metrics are limited, only looking at formal policies or a single survey at a single time period. "Our goal was to see if we can take the wealth of social surveys and find some synthesis; allowing us to potentially get a clearer picture on social LGBT acceptance across countries over time."

The Legal Count Index calculates pro-LGBT laws. The Legal Environment Index measures patterns of adoption of laws in countries.

The Legal Environment Index and the Global Acceptance Index are two conceptually new measures researchers are testing in cross-national economic studies for the first time, according to the release.

The researchers' goals were to assess the relationship between these three measures of inclusion with the gross domestic product per capita across 120 countries and to compare how these measures are related to GDP per capita.

Singling out the LGBT factors, they found that the three measures positively correlated with the GDP per capita.

In the Global Index, the researchers found that democracies committed to a free press and the rule of law demonstrated the strongest relationship between a country's GDP and LGBT acceptance.

The Global Index also found links between inclusion and the economy could help improve economic conditions and generate more inclusion.

The Global Index also revealed that countries that didn't demonstrate the same values, such as autocracies and anocracies (part democracy and part dictatorship), showed inclusion becoming weaker in shrinking civic spaces.

The only report in which researchers utilized all three indexes was the "Links between Economic Development and New Measures of LGBT Inclusion." The report tallies the number of LGBT-supportive laws in a country compared to the patterns of a country adopting the laws, which all three measures showed a positive correlation between LGBT inclusion and GDP per capita, according to the release.

Examining all three outcomes in the reports, the researchers determined that legal measures appear to be stronger predictors than public acceptance. Additionally, some evidence found that legal rights and public acceptance are stronger predictors of GDP per capita when combined than when they are alone, according to the release.

Taken together, these three indexes appear to be a more "consistent and comparable way to measure attitudes and attitude change," that could help better understand the "impact of LGBT inclusion in social, economic, and political life," said Flores in the April 18 news release from the think tank.

"A benefit of these measures is that it provides a uniform scoring process that can be updated," he explained to the B.A.R. in an email.

"My hope is that these new measures help document and track the multiple ways countries may be inclusive of LGBT populations," wrote Flores. "Hopefully, we'll continue to collect and track social surveys and policies, so we can update and inform multiple stakeholders how and why countries have or have not become more inclusive over time."

"More work is definitely needed, especially tracking gender-identity related policies for both transgender and intersex populations," he added.

Badgett added, "Social and legal inclusion have implications for global economic development policies. Programs that reduce violence, stigma, and discrimination against LGBT people and policies that enhance access to education and health care will allow LGBT people the opportunity to realize their full economic potential, which will benefit the overall economy."

These reports were produced as part of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Global Development Partnership founded in 2012.

Member agencies include the United States Agency for International Development, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Arcus Foundation, the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute, the Williams Institute, the Swedish Federation for LGBTQ Rights, and other corporate, nonprofit, and non-governmental organization resource partners.

To read the reports, visit,, and

Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at Skype: heather.cassell or [email protected].