LGBT Acceptance and Support: The Hispanic Perspective – April 2012

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by David Dutwin, Ph.D., Vice President,  social science research solutions (SSRS)

Overview Summary

There is sometimes concern expressed in the media that Hispanics are particularly anti-gay, and are more anti-legal gay marriage, than are other segments of American society. When the New York State Assembly legalized same-sex marriages, the New York Times immediately could have secured opinion from any number of anti-gay marriage groups, yet they featured a response from the Hispanic community specifically, through the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. And despite a host of general (that is, not specifically Hispanic) conservative groups making public protests against the law, it seemed as if Hispanic demonstrations received a disproportionate amount of press. Similar concerns have been raised in California and other states: Beware Hispanics (and other ethnic minorities) if you intend to push legal gay marriage legislation.
Is it true? We find, in fact, that Hispanics, if anything, are slightly more likely to support legal gay marriage and be open more generally toward gays and lesbians in society. As well, Hispanics are as likely to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender as any other group in the U.S. today. They are the most Catholic of ethnic groups, and yet Catholic Hispanics, we find, are more open than Protestant Hispanics with regard to LGBT attitudes and policy support.
Indeed, the great concern over Hispanic homophobia, according to our data, is highly exaggerated. That said, there are of course groups within the Hispanic community that are more intolerant than others. We find that if there is one concern with LGBT acceptance in the Hispanic community, it resides at the intersection of Hispanicity and religion. While the differences are not there for every measure of LGBT acceptance and policy support, for the majority of measures it is the case both that the most traditional, that is, unacculturated, Hispanics are among the least tolerant. Moreover, the most religious, at least as measured by born again status, Church attendance, and views on evolution and Biblical literalism, lead Hispanics in intolerance.
It could very well be the case that the reason the unacculturated are intolerant is because gay and lesbians are less upfront themselves in their ―home country;‖ As Hispanics live longer in the U.S., the more they stumble across LGBT issues, and more importantly, LGBT themselves. Our data corroborate with other data that the more one comes into contact with LGBT, the more tolerant they become.
Indeed, the argument made in the landmark study of religion in the U.S. (American Grace, Putnam and Campbell 2010) is that America is the most religiously diverse and, at the same time, the most religiously tolerant country. Historically, religious diversity has far more often led to religious intolerance than tolerance. They surmise that, to some degree, the fact that our society forces us to associate with people of different religions, at work, at school, etc. (compared to historical religious insularism) that leads to this paradox of diversity with tolerance.
The Hispanic community seems to be at a similar crossroads: Insofar as traditionalism and religious connectivity are insular, then future acceptance of LGBT will be stymied. But it does not appear as if traditionalism is an insular factor within the Hispanic community. Hispanics do comingle with other segments of society, both where they live and where they work. Generations correlate with acculturation, such that future generations are far more likely to comingle and be acculturated than earlier ones. So, from this perspective, Hispanics will continue to become more tolerant as they associate with other segments in society and themselves become exposed to issues of LGBT acceptance.
There is a greater concern about the potential insularity of highly religious Hispanics. Again, Putnam and Campbell assert that we like to think that people select their politics from their Church, but, in fact, they find that people as often select their Church based on their politics. Where do Hispanics lie in this regard? No data clearly establish a pattern. We know this much, however, that there appears to be a powerful effect of clergy in that, despite entering stringent statistical controls in multivariate analyses, whether respondents say that their clergy promulgate pro- or anti-gay messages in Church has a substantial effect on how respondents view LGBT and LGBT policies.
It is unclear then, what prescription one might entertain for this group. Have they self-selected these clergy for their conservative and traditional views? Or are Hispanics ―church mobile,‖ and therefore will someday meet other clergy who are perhaps more open toward LGBT? Is it possible to instead educate clergy themselves and push them to alter their message? Our data does not make clear any one prescription but it does make clear that the area of most concern with regard to Hispanics and LGBT acceptance is centered on the most traditional and religious Hispanics.
The following report is based upon an RDD sample of Hispanics interviewed in the lower 48 states via dual-frame (landline and cell) telephone interviewing. Given the sensitivity of the topic of this report, it is important that the data reported on herein are based on a solid foundation of survey methodology. We explore these intersections of Hispanicity, LGBT acceptance and policy support, religion, and other measures, starting with overarching principal findings and moving onto detailed findings and finally, topline results and methods.

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