In a new survey on shifting attitudes towards gay people across the globe, South Africa stands out as the only country to have legalised same-sex marriage in which the majority of citizens disapprove of homosexuality.

The Pew Research Center survey has found huge variance by region on the question of whether homosexuality should be accepted or rejected by society. The research centre last conducted the survey in 2007.

According to the survey of people in 39 nations, the more secular and wealthy a country is the more likely it is to be accepting of homosexuality.

Disturbingly, despite the country’s legal and constitutional backing of LGBT equality, researchers found that 61% of South Africans say that homosexuality should not be accepted by society, while just 32% say it should be accepted.

They also found that there is some variance accordant to age. While only 28% of South Africans older than 50 support the acceptance of gays, this rises to 35% among those between the ages of 18 and 29.

The results are extremely current: the researchers polled 815 South Africans face to face in English, Zulu, Xhosa, South Sotho and Afrikaans from March 18 to April 12 this year. (South Africa was not included in the 2007 PEW survey, which does not allow for a comparison over time.)

There is also widespread rejection in predominantly Muslim nations and in Africa, as well as in parts of Asia and in Russia. In sub-Saharan Africa, at least nine-in-ten in Nigeria (98%), Senegal (96%), Ghana (96%), Uganda (96%) and Kenya (90%) believe homosexuality should not be accepted by society.

Overwhelming majorities in the predominantly Muslim countries surveyed also say homosexuality should be rejected, including 97% in Jordan, 95% in Egypt, 94% in Tunisia, 93% in the Palestinian territories, 93% in Indonesia, 87% in Pakistan, 86% in Malaysia, 80% in Lebanon and 78% in Turkey.

Elsewhere, majorities in South Korea (59%) and China (57%) say homosexuality should not be accepted by society; 39% and 21%, respectively, say it should be accepted. South Korean views, while still negative, have shifted considerably since 2007, when 77% said homosexuality should be rejected and 18% said it should be accepted by society.

Regions of the world that are most accepting of gays include North America, the European Union, and much of Latin America. About three-quarters or more in Spain (88%), Germany (87%), the Czech Republic (80%), France (77%), Britain (76%), and Italy (74%) share this view, as do more than half in Greece (53%).

Poland is the only EU country surveyed where views are mixed; 42% say homosexuality should be accepted by society and 46% believe it should be rejected.

Canadians, who already expressed tolerant views in 2007, are now even more likely to say homosexuality should be accepted by society; 80% say this, compared with 70% six years ago.

Views are not as positive in the US, where a smaller majority (60%) believes homosexuality should be accepted. But Americans are far more tolerant today than they were in 2007, when 49% said homosexuality should be accepted by society and 41% said it should be rejected.

Opinions about homosexuality are also positive in parts of Latin America. In Argentina, the first country in the region to legalise gay marriage in 2010, about three-quarters (74%) say homosexuality should be accepted, as do clear majorities in Chile (68%), Mexico (61%) and Brazil (60%); about half of Venezuelans (51%) also express acceptance. In contrast, 62% of Salvadorans say homosexuality should be rejected by society, as do nearly half in Bolivia (49%).

In the Asia/Pacific region, where views of homosexuality are mostly negative, more than seven-in-ten in Australia (79%) and the Philippines (73%) say homosexuality should be accepted by society; 54% in Japan agree.

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