Sexual prejudice negatively affects the quality of life and life chances of those involved. Manual workers are consistently found to be less accepting of homosexuality in studies of sexual conformism. This can be seen as an application of Lipset’s ‘working class conformism’. Our core hypothesis is that this lower tolerance is rooted in working-class experiences. Counter-arguments are that that social class does not matter in contemporary society and that the relationship is spurious, with education as the true cause.
We test the central hypothesis with European survey data. First, we regress sexual prejudice on time trends and class with repeated cross-sections from the European Social Survey, ranging from 2002 to 2016. As an extra check, this is also applied to the European Values Study, going back to 1981. Further, we test the spuriousness argument with a matching design, testing whether stratification accounts for the lag.
The time series shows a stable lag between working-class members and others against the general trend of decreasing sexual prejudice. The matching design provides evidence that working-class membership in itself is a factor behind differences in sexual prejudice.
Contrary to ‘death of class’ conjectures, working-class membership is related to sexual prejudice. This contribution shows that this gap is due to experiences of belonging to the working class and not solely to educational differences.
Occupational experiences, especially in low-skill manual labour, have social effects in areas such as sexual prejudice. Improving the quality of work thus facilitates a more inclusive society for sexual minorities.
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We wish to thank the anonymous reviewer remarking this.
We wish to thank the anonymous reviewer for suggesting this counterargument.
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Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All analyses were performed on secondary data, with the use of 12 distinct datasets from the European Social Survey (http://www.europeansocialsurvey.org/) and the European Values Survey (https://europeanvaluesstudy.eu). In light of the retrospective nature of the study, the authors rely on the information provided by the data collectors to infer that informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the studies. Overall, all survey data were collected with clear instructions and information for the respondents about their use.
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Regressions: Robustness Checks
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Replication on EVS Data (1981–1999 and 1999–2007)
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Matching: Balance and Robustness Checks
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Adriaenssens, S., Hendrickx, J. & Holm, J. Class Foundations of Sexual Prejudice toward Gay and Lesbian People. Sex Res Soc Policy 19, 63–84 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-020-00525-y