SOURCE: University of Virginia, news release, July 23, 2015
MONDAY, July 27, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Bias against gays and lesbians is falling among Americans, a new study finds.
"Many people have this gut feeling that our culture has changed. We wondered whether people's attitudes were really changing, or if people today just feel more pressure to say they support lesbian and gay people," lead researcher Erin Westgate, a doctoral psychology student at the University of Virginia, said in a university news release.
Just last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that marriage between same-sex couples is legal in all 50 states.
Westgate and her colleagues analyzed data gathered from more than a half-million Americans between 2006 and 2013, and found that implicit (unconscious) bias against gays and lesbians fell 13 percent during that time, while explicit (self-reported) bias decreased 26 percent.
"Implicit biases can occur outside of conscious awareness or conscious control. People may know that they have them and not be able to control them," study co-author Brian Nosek, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, said in the news release. "This is the first evidence for long-term change in people's implicit attitudes on a cultural level."
Implicit bias declined the most among women, whites, Hispanics, liberals and younger people. The smallest changes were seen in men, blacks, Asians, conservatives and older people.
However, nearly all demographic groups showed declines in both implicit and explicit bias, according to the study published recently in the online journal Collabra.
"People today are genuinely more positive toward gay and lesbian people than they were just a decade ago," Westgate said. "The research shows that attitudes across the board are truly changing -- it's not just a function of people feeling less comfortable admitting their bias in a culture that has become more open."
The U.S. National Library of Medicine offers resources about LGBT health.