Date of Award

5-2010

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Kevin Corder

Second Advisor

Dr. John Clark

Third Advisor

Dr. Susan Hoffmann

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only

Abstract

Gay and lesbian rights have been a salient issue for many years. Despite much discrimination and contempt against this group, attitudes have become more tolerant over the last two decades. The primary purpose of this paper is to explain some of the changes in attitudes towards this group. Using data from the American National Elections Study, the present study focuses on social norms, personality traits, religiosity, and interpersonal contact to assess the changes in attitudes from 1988 to 2004. This thesis is important because of the impact that attitudes toward gays and lesbians might have in shaping public policy. The most important indicators of attitudes toward gays and lesbians in this study were the belief that there should be more emphasis on traditional family values, that newer lifestyles cause a breakdown in society, and that society should be more tolerant of different moral standards. The models in the study confirm the existing literature on tolerance toward gays and lesbians, but indicated other reasons not explained in this paper for the recent changes.

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