February 6, 2014

Russia’s moral barometer: Homosexuality unacceptable, but drinking, less so

FT_Russia_HomosexualityThe Olympic Winter Games in Sochi have shone a spotlight on the status of gays and lesbians in Russia. In particular, attention has focused on the anti-homosexual “propaganda” law, which was approved by the Russian parliament in a 436-0 vote last June. While President Vladimir Putin has defended the legislation as non-discriminatory, the measure has generated a significant backlash among Western countries and Olympic athletes.

But when it comes to public opinion in Russia, newly released data from a 2013 Pew Research Center survey suggests a similar reaction is unlikely: nearly three-quarters of the Russian population (72%) think that homosexuality is morally unacceptable, with only 18% saying it is acceptable or not a moral issue. In Russia, homosexuality tops the list of unacceptable behaviors even in comparison to other controversial issues, such as abortion and alcohol consumption. In fact, extramarital affairs (69% unacceptable) and gambling (62%) are the only other issues tested that are frowned upon by a majority of the Russian people.

This sentiment cuts across Russian society. Nearly equal numbers of men and women and young (18-29) and old (50+) think homosexuality is morally unacceptable. In addition, 65% of Russians with a college degree think homosexuality is immoral, while 75% without a college degree concur. Even among those Russians who think religion is not too or not at all important in their lives, 65% say homosexuality is wrong.

FT_Russia_AlcoholRussians generally agree that extramarital affairs and gambling are also unacceptable, but they are more divided when it comes to abortion and alcohol usage. Both are seen a morally unacceptable by 44% of the population, but 35% and 39% respectively say these are acceptable or are not a moral issue.

There is a stark gender and age divide on attitudes toward drinking which has long been an issue troubling Russian society. About half of Russian women (52%) say drinking alcohol is morally wrong, but only 36% of Russian men agree. And 52% of Russians over the age of 50 also say drinking is morally unacceptable, while only 39% of those under 30 say the same. A recent study published in The Lancet medical journal reinforces evidence “that vodka is a major cause of the high risk of premature death in Russian adults,” and a quarter of Russian men die before they are 55, mostly due to alcohol.

On the issues of premarital sex, divorce, and contraceptives, Russians are on balance accepting of these practices. Four-in-ten say sex between unmarried adults is an acceptable moral practice, while 46% agree that divorce is morally acceptable. And a 62%-majority think contraceptive use is proper, with only 7% saying that using a contraceptive is a morally unacceptable action.

Note: This data will be published in a forthcoming report that looks at global attitudes towards morality more broadly. The topline for this data can be found here.

Topics: Gay Marriage and Homosexuality, Foreign News

  1. Photo of Jacob Poushter

    is a senior researcher focusing on global attitudes at Pew Research Center.


  1. Anonymous2 years ago

    Is pre marital sex acceptable in Russia? Or is it a taboo? Is it discussed openly?

  2. John Alafonso4 years ago

    I would like to see a survey results of Russian Immigrants to the USA, after two years of comparative sex and age demographics juxtaposed to one another.

    1. Victor Lesnikov4 years ago

      Hate to admit it, John, but the majority of my fellow Russian immigrants are as “Middle Age” on the civil rights issues as their Russian counterparts. Sad to see that even young demographic under 30 does not believe in basic freedoms and rights for all. Oh, btw, they have a fun misconception in Russia that democracy is defined by the majority will. But the fact of matter is that majority will protect its right under any government, it’s the minority rights (race, sex, sexual orientation), which differ a true democracy from a dictatorship!
      PS I’m really surprised that US news networks haven’t “shone the light” on women’s and disabled people’s rights in Russia. Give you a hint. It’s worse to be disabled there, than being gay or lesbian.

  3. Hugh Hendry4 years ago

    I believe Russia is a massively corrupt and degenerate country. It’s populace and leaders are vile and evil. To have awarded the Winter Olympics to them is a travesty not only to every democratically elected government but also to decent, caring global citizens. Putkin id former KGB and thus still embraces the heavy-handed practices of that organization. I pray to God America never adopts Russia’s social mores.

    1. tim Mc Hugh4 years ago

      I heard a gut puncher the other day. It said that priests at Mass were asking Russia to pray for our conversion…

    2. Paul3 years ago

      Hugh, let’s all be a little more polite. There are problems in every country and Russia indeed suffers from corruption, but calling the whole population vile and evil is a blanket statement that doesn’t render you an intelligent person. You don’t have to do yourself that disservice.

  4. pasadena bob4 years ago

    Re: homosexuality. I think the surveyors did themselves a disservice. The way the Q (= question) is asked draws a “no” answer, especially from the majority heterosexual people in the population. if asked, “If you were a homosexual, do you find it unacceptable”? or “If you are a homosexual, to you find anything abnormal in so being”? or “Without regard to morality, would you consider homosexuality unacceptable”? or “Should homosexuality be outlawed”? or “Is homosexuality a normal trait for some human beings”? Or … But to ask an overwhelmingly majority population that is heterosexual if it immoral for other kinds of sexuality is to get the results you got. I am not a homosexual and I shouldn’t have to say that for these thoughts to be acceptable to ask.

    1. Mirko3 years ago

      “If you were a homosexual…”.. you suppose homosexuality is not a choice, but many don’t think so.

  5. Chester Kilgore4 years ago

    Why did Pew decide on the word “Moral”? Generally that word speaks to religious values, and religion is no longer very strong in Russia, and the separation of church and state is strong in Russia. A more telling question would have been along the lines of “Do you think that homosexuals and heterosexuals should have equal rights?”

    1. Anonymous3 years ago

      Actually, religion is often advocated in Russia nowadays by state TV channels, which irritates many young adults who aren’t actively Christian and it’s often being mocked like other forms of state propaganda.
      > A more telling question would have been along the lines of “Do you think that homosexuals and heterosexuals should have equal rights?”
      Yeah, I believe that it would’ve given more positive results. Though not drastically, since the majority of Russian population is still homophobic in one way or another, and the ban on “homosexual propaganda to minors” was received either favorably or indifferently(like, “we have more important problems than gays”).

  6. MuckrakerW4 years ago

    As an American child in the 1950s and 1960s, I was lead to believe by religious leaders and others that Russians were without morals, even downright barbaric. This article embedded with these otherwise interestingly and surprisingly profound statistics deduces that even the Russians find the homosexual culture & lifestyle reprehensible. I commend Russian people on their faculty to understand genetically the purpose of a man and a woman. May God bless the Sochi in Russia. globalbabbler.com.

    1. Bob4 years ago

      Gee, we used to have the same thoughts on Native Americans and African Americans. So based on your homophobia we should put the injuns & the negros back in there place.

      1. MuckrakerW4 years ago

        You gay trash, homosexuality has nothing to with race. Race is in no way associated with such a deviant lifestyle. You cannot define discrimination against gays to be the same as discrimination against a race. Go suck your lollipop asshole and leave the business of reality to men.

        1. MuckrakerW4 years ago

          You fail to realize, you brainsick nutcase, that Race is genetic while homosexuality is by personal choice. So any discrimination gays or lesbians encounter is self inflicted. As easy as it is for you to decide to become gay or lesbian; it is that easy to decide to stop being the disgrace you are.

    2. Hugh Hendry4 years ago

      I surmise from your response that you are both literate as well as homophobic.

      1. MuckrakerW4 years ago

        Nope. Phobic means suffering from irrational fears. This is not true in the case of homosexuality because as far as I am concerned it is a lifestyle that is utterly reprehensible. I grew up having sex with women not men which is rational to me considering the rewards such as children. I have no fear of homosexuals, so long as they don’t attempt to change my sexual orientation, in addition, I dread the thought of AIDS. Moreover, each individual can choose how they want to live their lives. I don’t care. But homosexuality to me is despicable and biologically unacceptable. Alcibiades couldn’t turn Socrates into a homosexual either, or change his mind about the horrible, filthy act itself. You brainsick nutcases have got to grow up and see the light before it’s to late. And by the way you aren’t anything special on planet earth. You’re dirt like everybody else and deserve no special privileges. globalbabbler.com

  7. Jim from+Copley4 years ago

    I have no way to prove anything, since I don’t “do” surveys, but I would expect most of the world’s population would agree with these results.

  8. Dr. Brian L. Horejsi4 years ago

    Interesting insight sinto collective russian cultural norms, BUT the more interesting would be to contrast these with the U.S., Canada, maybe Brazil and France??

  9. Jerry Weinstein4 years ago

    It should be noted that the percentage of Russia’s who are anti-LGBT has nearly double over the last five years.

    See: This “Russian Public Opinion” poll: wciom.com/index.php?id=61&u…

    1. More Russians perceive homosexuality negatively: 54% believe it should be banned or even prosecuted. Thirty-three percent believe that homosexuality should be limited (in 2007 – 21%). And only 9% think that homosexuality should not be banned or limited.

    2. Over the recent years the share of those who oppose same-sex marriage has increased: from 59% in 2005 to 86% currently. At the same time, the share of those who believe that same-sex couples can marry has dramatically decreased (from 14 to 4%). The number of those who partly agree or partly disagree with this statement has also decreased (from 17 to 6%).

    The VCIOM opinion polls were conducted on June 8-9, 2013. 1600 respondents were interviewed in 13 communities in 42 regions of Russia. The margin of error does not exceed 3.4%.


    -J. Weinstein

    1. Nicole4 years ago

      My thoughts are, if you are a LGBT member living in that hell whole, get the hell out and go move to a country where you can live freely with who you love without people degrading you and deeming their “sexual intercourse baby making” the most important aspect of life…