Page last updated at 09:04 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

UK more liberal on homosexuality, says survey

Gay couple
Public attitudes towards gay relationships have changed

Public attitudes to homosexuality are becoming more liberal, according to a government-backed survey.

Some 36% thought homosexual acts were "always" or "mostly" wrong, down from 62% when the British Social Attitudes survey was first carried out, in 1983.

But the public is taking a tougher line on cannabis, the survey of 4,486 adults, conducted in 2008, found.

More people see themselves as Tory rather than Labour supporters for the first time since the 1980s, it adds.

The survey also suggested the number of people who felt a pressing need to vote in general elections was declining.

Some 56% of those questioned thought it was "everyone's duty to vote" - down from 68% in 1991.

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This fell to 41% among the under-35s. Meanwhile, 32% of people said they had "not much" or "no interest" in politics.

The report's co-author, Sarah Butt, said: "Low turnout has been a feature of recent elections with just 61% of people turning out to vote in 2005.

"The decline in civic duty means it is possible that, regardless of whether the next election provides voters with a clear choice between parties or a more closely fought contest, we could again see large sections of the population remaining at home on election day."

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The survey also suggests 32% of people see themselves as Conservative supporters, compared with 27% for Labour.

This is the first time the Tories have been in the lead since the 1989 survey. As recently as 2007, Labour had a nine-point lead.

The latest survey also has 9% of people describing themselves as Liberal Democrat supporters, with backing for "others" at 6% and a quarter of respondents saying they had no preference or did not know which party to choose.

Some 39% of people supported increased taxes and spending on health and education, the lowest level since 1984 and down from 62% in 1997.

And 38% thought the government should redistribute income from the better-off to the less well-off - down from 51% in 1994.

Matthew Parris: "I never thought the world would change much in my lifetime and it has"

Report co-author John Curtice said: "Labour's increased spending on health and education was an astute if delayed recognition of the public mood in the late 1990s.

"But now that spending has been increased, the public's thirst has been satisfied. Unless the financial crisis has persuaded the public to change its mind once again, this new mood could well prove a blessing for whichever party wins the general election."

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The survey - which asks people about their attitudes to politics and social matters - suggests views on cannabis have hardened over the past decade, with 58% of people saying it should be illegal, compared with 46% in 2001.

On cohabitation, 45% said it made "no difference" whether a child's parents were married or just living together - up from 38% in 1998.

British Social Attitudes, carried out by the National Centre for Social Research, is funded by the government and various charities.

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