France gay marriageA new global survey by American research body Pew Research Centre has named Australia one of the most tolerant countries in the world when it comes to accepting homosexuality.

The survey included 39 countries across all continents and asked respondents, “Should society accept homosexuality?”

Seventy-nine per cent of Australians surveyed said yes, coming in behind a handful of nations including Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany and Spain, which at 88 per cent had the highest proportion of affirmative responses.

The most negative responses came from Africa and the Middle East, with below five percent of respondents in the affirmative in Nigeria, Egypt, Pakistan and others.

The survey repeats a similar one from 2007, and while most countries’ views have changed little since then, a sizeable number recorded large swings that indicate dramatic changes in public opinion. The biggest increases in support were recorded in South Korea and the United States, which recorded shifts in favour of homosexuality of 21 and 11 points respectively.

The largest negative shift was in France where the affirmative percentage dropped by six points to 77 percent, a possible reflection on the deep divisions exposed in French society after same-sex marriage was legalised in May. There was also a four-point decline in Russia, a nation that has been criticised for going backwards on gay rights issues in recent months after strident moves to crack down on homosexuality spearheaded by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The study also concluded that tolerance of homosexuality was strongly aligned with the pervasiveness of religion in the countries surveyed, finding that opposition to homosexuality was far less pronounced in nations with a lower proportion of the population identifying as strongly religious.

Age and gender appeared to be influencing factors in most countries, with women and younger respondents more likely to accept homosexuality.

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