By Sonia Elks
LONDON, July 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Acceptance of gay relationships among British people has dipped for the first time in more than 30 years, researchers said on Thursday, warning years of rising tolerance could be reaching a plateau.
The number of people who considered same-sex relationships to be "not wrong at all" slid to 66% in the latest British Social Attitudes report by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), down from 68% a year earlier.
It is the first time tolerance of gay relationships recorded by the survey has decreased since 1987, when only about one in 10 people said they accepted same-sex relationships.
Researchers said the dip was not statistically significant, but the figures suggested years of steady increases in acceptance may be coming to an end.
"Over the last three years attitudes seem to have been stabilising," Nilufer Rahim, the organisation's research director, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
"What we might be seeing is that attitudes are plateauing now — we might be reaching a point at which attitudes might not liberalise in the same way as they have done since the early 1980s," Rahim added.
British attitudes towards gay people have become steadily more liberal since the survey began in the early 1980s, the data from independent social research organisation NatCen show.
The latest survey of nearly 4,000 people conducted in 2018 also found more than four in five respondents said they were "not prejudiced at all" towards transgender people, but less than half said anti-trans prejudice was always wrong.
Researchers said that suggested many had "mixed feelings" over gender minorities, who might see an increase in acceptance even as support for gay people levelled off.
A national survey published in the United States last month found acceptance of LGBT+ people had dipped in recent years.
Just under half of heterosexual adults surveyed said they felt comfortable with LGBT+ people across a number of everyday scenarios, compared to just over half in 2017, found the US poll.
LGBT+ campaigners said the data showed more work was needed on building tolerance.
"We know we need to change more people's attitudes before everyone feels free to be themselves," said Laura Russell, director of campaigns, policy and research at LGBT+ rights group Stonewall.
"This is crucial because many LGBT people still don't feel safe in Britain. Far too many experience hate crime, discrimination and abuse in their day-to-day lives," Russell said.
(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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