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Study finds stressing the cost of discrimination can shift attitudes

Efforts to improve rights for lesbian, gay and bisexual people in socially conservative countries may be more effective if they appeal to the economic cost of discrimination, a new study has found.

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The study was authored by by Cevat Giray Aksoy, Christopher S. Carpenter, Ralph De Haas, Mathias Dolls and Lisa Windsteiger. Picture: STOCK IMAGE

Researchers found that people in three countries ranked as having some of the most restrictive LGB policies in Europe were 1.5 times more likely to support equal employment opportunities for gay and lesbian people when provided with information on the costs to their country of sexual orientation discrimination.

And the study also found evidence of an improvement in social and moral attitudes towards members of the LGB community when participants were provided with ‘myth-debunking’ information backed by sources they deemed trustworthy.

The findings were revealed in the study, Reducing Sexual-Orientation Discrimination: Experimental Evidence from Basic Information Treatments, co-authored by Cevat Giray Aksoy, Christopher S. Carpenter, Ralph De Haas, Mathias Dolls and Lisa Windsteiger.

More than 6,500 people took part in the study across three countries: Serbia, Turkey, and Ukraine. According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (IGLA), the three nations have among the most restrictive LGBT equality laws and policies, scoring just 33, four, and 18, respectively, on a scale where zero indicates gross human rights violations and 100 represents the greatest degree of equality under the law.

Together, our findings suggest that political actors wanting to achieve the policy goal of expanding non-discrimination employment protections should consider information campaigns that stress the costs of discrimination as opposed to trying to change more fundamental views about homosexuality– Dr Cevat Giray Aksoy

As part of the study, a third of participants received the ‘discrimination cost’ information, another third received the myth-debunking information, and the final third received placebo information unrelated to LGB people.

While the research team’s results were “statistically and economically meaningful” in improving support for equal employment opportunities through the discrimination cost information, the effect of changing social and moral attitudes towards LGB people with myth-debunking information proved less significant.

Dr Aksoy, from King’s College London and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, said: “On the one hand, our results show quite clearly that individuals in countries with negative attitudes toward sexual minorities can separate their views about, say, moral objections to homosexuality from those regarding equal employment.

“Our results also show, however, that moving the needle on more fundamentally held beliefs about homosexuality is difficult: our myth-debunking treatment had statistically weaker and smaller effects at improving views about homosexuality than our discrimination cost treatment had on support for equal employment opportunity.

“Together, our findings suggest that political actors wanting to achieve the policy goal of expanding non-discrimination employment protections should consider information campaigns that stress the costs of discrimination as opposed to trying to change more fundamental views about homosexuality.”

Dr Aksoy added that the results also indicated that changing more fundamental views was not beyond the scope of information campaigns, particularly when framed in the context of trusted institutions.

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You can read the study in full here.

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Cevat Giray Aksoy

Cevat Giray Aksoy

Lecturer in Economics