National surveys are one way to understand the beliefs which undermine the equality of sexual minorities. In the US various surveys have noted that despite increased legal protection of gay, lesbian and transgendered persons, discrimination persists in more subtle forms. This is noted in national survey responses regarding the informal privileges such as public displays of affections of same-sex couples, extent of contact with same-sex couples and in particular feelings towards transgendered people.
National survey data was used to determine the extent to which informal privileges normally granted to heterosexual couples were given to same-sex couples (Doan et. al. 2014). In general most people did not support informal privileges for same-sex couples to the extent that they supported heterosexual couples (Ibid.).
While studies have correlated exposure to lesbians and gays with positive feelings and legal support for equal rights, the assumption that this leads to lower levels of prejudice is false. Persons with more contact with a homosexual or transgender friend or relative reported lower levels of sexual prejudice because there was a confounding link as those with contact had self-selected for exposure based on lower levels of prejudice (Loehr et. al. 2015).
An American survey found that while feelings towards transgendered people were similar in direction to an individual’s feels towards gay men and lesbians, but they were also typically more negative (Norton & Herek 2013). Transgendered people appear to have the greatest difficulty with regard to prejudice of the general public.
National survey data makes clear that prejudice regarding sexual orientation and status persist in America. Studies have shown that subtle discrimination persists despite support for legal equality; there is avoidance of sexual minorities by those with the greatest amount of prejudice; and in general more negative reaction with regard to transgendered persons.
- Doan, L., Loehr, A., & Miller, L. R. (2014). Formal Rights and Informal Privileges for Same-Sex Couples Evidence from a National Survey Experiment. American Sociological Review, 79(6), 1172-1195.
- Loehr, A., Doan, L., & Miller, L. R. (2015). The Role of Selection Effects in the Contact Hypothesis: Results from a US National Survey on Sexual Prejudice. Archives of sexual behavior, 1-13.
- Norton, A. T., & Herek, G. M. (2013). Heterosexuals’ attitudes toward transgender people: Findings from a national probability sample of US adults. Sex roles, 68(11-12), 738-753.