DOI: 10.1177/000312240106600507 ISSN:

America's Liberalization in Attitudes toward Homosexuality, 1973 TO 1998

Jeni Loftus
  • Sociology and Political Science

Using General Social Survey data from 1973 to 1998, changing American attitudes toward homosexuality are examined. Two hypotheses are tested: (1) Can changes in attitudes be accounted for by the changing demographics of the population? (2) Are changing attitudes toward homosexuality embedded within larger cultural ideological shifts? The data indicate that Americans distinguish between the morality of homosexuality and the civil liberties of homosexuals. Americans became increasingly negative regarding the morality of homosexuality through 1990, but since then their attitudes have become increasingly liberal. The same 25–year period witnessed a steady decline in Americans’ willingness to restrict the civil liberties of homosexuals. Changes in American demographics—particularly increasing educational levels—and changing cultural ideological beliefs can account for only about one-half of the change over time in attitudes toward homosexuality. Several theories are put forth to explain these patterns of change and the distinction made between morality and civil liberties.

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