A favourite theme of some expat gay friends living in London is how much more progressive Europe is compared to Australia on gay issues. The latest trigger was this story about how, allegedly, straight male UK uni students are now happy to kiss each other on the lips.
I’m quite willing to believe that London, or at least central London, is the gayest place on the planet. But just as data is not the plural of anecdote, a lot of well-tolerated gay men in a concentrated space doesn’t necessarily tell us a lot about attitudes overall. So I went looking for some comparable survey evidence.
To try to keep the graph fairly easy to read I have shown only the polarities of views; those who think same-sex relations are always wrong and those who think they are not wrong at all. In both cases, I am only including in the same those who answered the question (more than 10% in each country couldn’t choose).
Aust. survey date/UK survey date
All Aust surveys, with minor variations in the opening: What do you think about sexual relations between two adults of the same sex?; Brit survey: What about sexual relations between two adults of the same sex?
British attitudes are a little more positive than in Australia, but what’s really striking is not just that the results are similar now but that the trends over time are also very similar.
Attitudes to gay marriage are also very similar. I noted last week that the latest Australian survey found 62% in favour, and 33% against. In Britain in 2009, 61% in favour, 33% against. (Australian question: ‘Same sex couples should be allowed to get married’; UK question ‘Gay couples should have an equal right to get married, not just to have civil partnerships.’) However the Brits were more likely to strongly agree, 32% compared to 25%.
There appears to be a major shift in social attitudes happening almost simultaneously in two countries. Whether this is part of a global culture shift, or because Australia and Britain still have deeply intertwined cultures, I am not sure.