The US Supreme Court recently legalized marriage between same-sex couples in all 50 states in the country. This ruling followed on the heels of national polls showing rapid cultural changes in attitudes toward lesbian and gay people. A study by the University of Virginia has revealed that conscious and unconscious biases against lesbian women and gay men are decreasing across all demographic groups in the US. The study suggested that not only are the biases decreasing, but the trend also appears to be accelerating.
Lead researcher Erin Westgate, a doctoral psychology student at the University of Virginia, said, "Many people have this gut feeling that our culture has changed. We wondered whether people's attitudes were really changing, or if people today just feel more pressure to say they support lesbian and gay people."
Based on previous research on self-reported attitudes, Westgate and his colleagues analyzed data collected from more than half a million people between 2006 through 2013. The research team found that implicit or unconscious bias against lesbian and gay people was 13% lower in 2013 than in 2006, suggesting that implicit bias has decreased substantially in recent years. They also found that explicit, or self-reported bias decreased twice as much (26%) as implicit bias over the same seven-year period.
Co-author Brian Nosek said, "Implicit biases can occur outside of conscious awareness or conscious control. People may know that they have them and not be able to control them. This is the first evidence for long-term change in people's implicit attitudes on a cultural level."
The study authors also found that some people's attitudes were changing more quickly than others. Age, race and political orientation were the biggest predictors of this attitude change. Westgate said, "People today are genuinely more positive towards gay and lesbian people than they were just a decade ago."
The study appeared online in Collabra