May 18, 2010

The World Warms Up To Homosexuality, Not So Much For Sex Work

Using data from the World Values Survey, Will Wilkinson found steady decreases in intolerance of homosexuality around the world - yet, not so for prostitution.

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Using data over the last 25 years of the World Values Survey, which includes nationally-representative data from many countries around the world, Will Wilkinson,a Cato Institute Research Fellow, found steady decreases in intolerance of homosexuality around the world.  However, there has been little change in attitudes toward prostitution.

The Trends

Between 1981 and 2006, Wilkinson found in 7 wealthy liberal democratic nations a stark decrease in the percentage of people endorsing the belief that homosexuality is “never justifiable.”  Among these 7, the United States appears to have remained the most conservative regarding homosexuality; although, it is clear from social sciences research that attitudes toward homosexuality and lesbian, gay, and bisexual people has become steadily more tolerant since the 1990s.

Wilkinson also found a nearly-uninterpretable pattern among these countries in individuals’ attitudes toward prostitution.  The general trend over time  points toward a growing tolerance of sex work, but the patterns are difficult to discern within each individual country.

  • My question when looking at the data, is whether or not the survey methodology was the same across the past three decades. From the view of someone familiar with survey research, but less with this topic, is there something cultural that causes sharp inclines and declines in the results?

  • Sacha Urban

    I feel this is comparing apples to oranges: homosexuality is a relationship/attraction between two people of the same sex. However, a Sex Worker is, potentially, a threat to an established (same or opposite sex) relationship. A threat is far more difficult to accept than a relationship that is “out there” and not affecting an individual's or a couple's life.