For the first time in years, tolerance of LGBTQ people has actually decreased, according to a new poll commissioned by GLAAD and released in the Accelerating Acceptance report at the World Economic Forum on Thursday.
The study found that of the 2,160 adult participants, only 49 percent described themselves as “very” or “somewhat” comfortable around LGBTQ people, compared to the 53 percent who felt that way in 2016. (Of the participants, 1,897 classified themselves as non-LGBTQ.)
Of the straight, cis respondents, 30 percent said they would either be “very uncomfortable or somewhat uncomfortable” if they learned a family member was LGBTQ—up three percent from both 2015 and 2016. Similar levels of discomfort were found in a variety of other commonplace situations, like having an LGBT person at their place of worship, as a doctor, or even “Seeing a Same Sex Couple Holding Hands.”
Relatedly, the survey also found that there was an 11 percent increase from last year among LGBTQ people who have personally experienced discrimination.
While advocates aren’t necessarily surprised that the events of the last year have had a chilling effect on acceptance, they didn’t necessarily think it would manifest so suddenly. From NBC:
“In the past year, there has been a swift and alarming erosion of acceptance which can only be fought by being visible and vocal,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement sent to NBC News. “This report puts numbers to the bias that too many LGBTQ Americans have recently experienced.”
In a statement included within the report, Ellis said the decline in LGBTQ support “can be seen as a dangerous repercussion in the tenor of discourse and experience over the last year.”
“2017 brought heightened rhetoric toward marginalized communities to the forefront of American culture. Policies and headlines ran that were anti-LGBTQ including the President’s proposed ban on transgender people entering the U.S. military, confirmation of a Supreme Court justice opposed to marriage equality, and the passage of a state law in Mississippi which allows businesses to legally deny service to LGBTQ families,” Ellis wrote.
John Gerzema, CEO of Harris Poll, which conducted the survey, told the Washington Post that Americans seem to be taking advantage of an environment newly tolerant of bigotry, despite not wanting to come across explicitly as bigots themselves:
The number of non-LGBT Americans who gave what Gerzema called “the PC response,” telling pollsters that they support equal rights for LGBT people, held steady at 79 percent. But the number of respondents who said they would be somewhat or very uncomfortable having LGBT members of their faith communities, learning that a family member was LGBT, having their child taught by an LGBT teacher or study LGBT history in school, finding out that their doctor was LGBT, or even seeing same-sex couples holding hands all ticked upward.
The survey was released on the heels of yet another alarming report, which found that hate-related homicides against LGBTQ individuals rose 86 percent in 2017. The overwhelming majority—71 percent—of those victims were people of color.