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How attitudes to same sex relationships have changed over the past 30 years

20 May 2013 | Tags: British Social Attitudes, same sex relationships, relationships, religion and belief

With the legislation on same sex marriage being debated by MPs, NatCen Social Research has looked at its British Social Attitudes survey to see what the British public think about same sex relationships and how their opinions have moved over the last three decades.

Data collected between 1983 and 2010 revealed a significant shift in the public's views to same-sex relationships:

• In 1983 50% of the public said that same sex relationships were "always wrong" compared with 20% saying this in 2010.

• The percentage of the public saying that same sex relationships were "always wrong" peaked at 64 per cent in 1987.

• The percentage saying that same sex relationships are "not at all wrong" increased from 17% in 1983 to 45% in 2010.

Although there has been a clear shift, this still leaves a large minority with concerns about same sex relationships. In 2010, almost a third of the population, 29%, said that same sex relationships were wrong always or most of the time.

Public attitudes by political party

With the parliamentary Conservative Party split over the issue we thought it was worth examining whether the public are also split along party lines.

The data revealed that the Labour and Conservative party supporters have quite similar views on same sex relationships:

• In 2010, 22% of Labour and Conservative Party supporters said that same sex relationships were "always wrong" similar to the population as a whole, compared with only 10% of Liberal Democrat supporters.

• In 2010, 39% of Conservatives felt same sex relationships were "not at all wrong", up from 16% in 1983.

Public attitudes by religion

Perhaps unsurprisingly there is a close relationship between religion and attitudes to same sex relationships.

• In 2010, 60% of people who described themselves as having no religion believed that same sex relationships are "not at all wrong" compared with 45% of the general population. Only 25 per cent of people with no religious affiliation thought that same sex relationships were "not at all wrong" in 1983.

• Anglicans were slightly more cautious about same sex relationships than the population as a whole, with 38% saying that same sex relationships were "not at all wrong". This position has changed considerably since 1983 when 16% of Anglicans said same sex relationships were "not at all wrong".