ST Sep 20, 2007
7 in 10 frown on homosexuality, NTU survey finds
People most likely to be anti-gay: The religious and those who conform to social norms
By Radha Basu
SEVEN in 10 people here frown on homosexuality, a Nanyang Technological University (NTU) study has found.
The study - which its authors claim is the first 'nationally representative' survey of its kind here - found two key predictors of sentiments here: how deeply religious a person was and how far he or she conformed to social norms.
The study by NTU's School of Communication and Information was published recently in the International Journal of Public Opinion Research, which maps public opinion worldwide.
To gather the data, more than 1,000 people, profiled to resemble the national population, were asked six questions to gauge their attitudes towards lesbians and homosexuals.
For example, they were asked whether sex between two men or two women was 'plain wrong' and whether homosexuals or lesbians were 'disgusting'.
It was found that 68.6per cent of respondents 'generally held negative attitudes', 22.9per cent had positive attitudes and 8.5per cent were neutral.
Besides answering the questions, participants had to give their age, income, education level, gender and marital status. They also had to answer questions designed to gauge how religious they were and how strongly they felt about conforming to social norms.
Through statistical calculations, the study concluded that 'intrinsic religiosity' - viewing religion as the primary driving force in life - was the strongest predictor of anti-gay sentiment here.
On average, Christians and Muslims were seen to hold 'significantly more negative attitudes' than Buddhists or freethinkers.
You might not immediately see what I mean. Let me explain.
Suppose you conducted a survey among Singaporeans and asked them if they disapproved of murder. You would certainly get 10 out of 10 Singaporeans saying that they disapproved of murder.
Suppose you conducted another survey and asked them if they disapproved of shoplifting. Once again you would certainly get 10 out of 10 Singaporeans saying that they disapproved of shoplifting.
And if you did a similar survey on drug trafficking …. child abuse …. drunk driving …. cheating …. corruption …. maid abuse …. robbery …. kidnapping …. illegal possession of firearms … rioting …. voluntarily causing hurt …… driving without a licence …. and most other criminal offences in the laws of Singapore ...
…. you would get 10 out of 10 Singaporeans saying that they disapproved of such acts.
This should surprise no one. In general, crimes are those kinds of activities which are so harmful and serious that society sees fit to set up entire institutions – the police force, the courts, the prisons – to deal with them. Crimes are those kinds of activities which are so serious that we can expect 10 out of 10 citizens, or at least 9 out of 10 citizens to disapprove of them.
The fact that only 7 out of 10 Singaporeans frown on homosexuality probably puts it in the same league as premarital sex. Divorce. Interracial marriages. Opposition politicians. Integrated resorts. And PM Lee’s latest proposed changes to the CPF system.
After all, if you did the various surveys, you’d probably find that around seven out of 10 Singaporeans would frown on premarital sex. Seven out of 10 would frown on divorce. Seven out of 10 would frown on interracial marriages (or Asian women dating white men). Seven out of 10 would vote for the PAP instead of the Opposition. Seven out of 10 would disapprove of the integrated resorts. Seven out of 10 would disapprove of PM Lee’s proposed changes to the CPF system.
However, it is not a crime to have premarital sex. It is not a crime to get divorced. It is not a crime to marry a person of another race. It is not a crime to be an Opposition politician. The integrated resorts are still getting built. And PM Lee certainly won’t be arrested for proposing that all CPF members buy annuities.
So why should Section 377 of the Penal Code threaten gays with life imprisonment?