Contact theory holds that interaction with members of minority groups makes members of the majority more tolerant. Unfortunately, in the case of homosexuals, previous research has been limited by significant conceptual and methodological problems. In this study, we attempt to alleviate these past problems by reconceptualizing the notion of contact to hypothesize that citizens who live in communities with larger gay populations will have significantly warmer affective attitudes toward gay men and lesbians. We test this hypothesis using data from a 1996 national survey and multivariate, censored-normal regression models. Our findings demonstrate that community context has a robust effect on citizen attitudes toward homosexuals, rivaling the impact of education and age. These results highlight the importance of public policies and group strategies aimed at encouraging openness regarding sexual orientation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science