It is not known how many LGBT people there are in Singapore. The Census of Population, which is done once every ten years, does not keep track of this demographic. The situation is not surprising since even a country where LGBT rights are much more advanced like the United States does not include this category in its published census statistics, although sociological polls are periodically conducted (see LGBT demographics of the United States). An estimate for Singapore based on people who identify as LGBT in developed countries would range from 3 to 5% (see Demographics of sexual orientation).
In recent decades, the concern of the Singapore government has been to arrest the declining the birth rate, to maintain the proportional racial composition of the country and to increase the material well-being of its citizens. As such, the population census statistics have focused mainly on race, marriage, offspring and educational qualification, amongst more conventional demographic indices.
The status quo is obviously detrimental to the rights of LGBT Singaporeans as it renders them "invisible" in population planning geared towards meeting citizens' needs. It also implies that they are not officially recognised as a valid minority the way minority races and adherents of religions are.
It is unfortunate that the only government-backed survey done so far, in 2019, to estimate the number of gay men in Singapore was undertaken in the context of HIV epidemiology. Others have focused mainly on attitudes towards homosexuality and used the findings to affirm the conservative nature of Singaporeans which justifies the retention of Section 377A of the Penal Code.
The LGBT community has tried to redress the situation by conducting its own surveys dealing with the public's attitudes towards LGBT people, especially gay men, and other pertinent issues such as bullying, violence and support services.
PLU's survey 2000
In the year 2000, Singapore's pioneering LGBT advocacy group, People Like Us (PLU), organised a survey of the public’s attitudes towards homosexuality. Led by Dinesh Naidu and with very limited resources, it could not be a rigorously scientific one but would still give a good flavour of mainstream attitudes.
More importantly, unlike the few other surveys done, PLU’s study avoided judgemental questions such as whether one “approved” or "did not approve" of homosexuality, or emotionally-laden ones, such as whether one would be “disappointed” or “shocked”. PLU’s survey asked people to reflect for a moment and say how they might relate to family members or colleagues who were gay, and how they felt broader principles of equality should apply to the gay question. The results of this survey were published in the Facts and Figures section of the PLU website (and )
It was also notable that a number of straight friends helped out with the survey, standing at street corners handing out questionnaires, putting themselves at risk of other people assuming they were gay too.
PLU reckoned that since the trend, in Singapore and worldwide, was for gay persons to come out of the closet, so increasingly, Singaporeans would get to know gay friends and family members in their midst. Findings of the landmark survey indicated that attitudes in the general population were likely then to shift to being more "liberal" towards gay people as a result.
Study on psychological problems of National Servicemen, 2000
An academic paper entitled, "Adjusting to Military Life – Servicemen with Problems Coping and their Outcomes", was published in 2000 in the Singapore Medical Journal. It was authored by:
- CPT(DR) C S C Cheok, Medical Officer, Psychological Medicine Branch, HQ Medical Corps
- COL(DR) Ang Yong Guan, Head, Woodbridge Hospital
- CPT(DR)(NS) W M Chew, Medical Officer, Department of Psychiatry, Tan Tock Seng Hospital
- CPT(DR) H Y Tan, Medical Officer, Singapore Armed Forces
The research retrospectively studied 77 servicemen in the work year July 1995 to June 1996 who were referred to the Psychological Medicine Branch (PMB) of the Singapore Armed Forces within six months of enlistment. The PMB is the principal referral centre for soldiers with psychiatric problems in the military. The department is manned by consultant psychiatrists and a psychologist and both outpatient and inpatient services are available. The Psychological Medicine Inpatient Centre at Alexandra Hospital caters to enlistees who need inpatient care. The main classes of diagnoses found in the study were stress-related disorders, anxiety, mood and psychotic disorders. The main stressor was problems adapting to the military environment. The demographic profile of the servicemen was an age ranging from 17 to 23 years old; 81.8% of patients were heterosexual and 18.2% were homosexual.
The Attitudes on family: Survey on social attitudes of Singaporeans (SAS) 2001, conducted by industrial psychologist David Chan on behalf of the Ministry of Community Development and Sports over a cross section of Singaporeans found that 29% of those under 30 years of age found homosexuality acceptable.
Fridae's survey, 2001
In 2001, Fridae, Asia's largest English language-LGBT web portal, polled its gay and lesbian members residing in Singapore. Of the 595 respondents, 39% declared that they were "attached" or "living with a partner." 40% of the respondents who were in relationships had been with the same partner for more than 6 months. A high proportion of respondents lived with their parents, while only 22% owned or rented their homes. This was despite the relatively high income levels of the respondents, with 50% earning more than S$80,000 (US$47,000) per annum – 20% reporting income levels of more than S$180,000 per annum, 11% between S$120,000 to S$180,000 and 19% between S$80,000 to S$120,000. A caveat would be that online surveys tend to be less representative of the broader population than scientifically conducted real-world random surveys, because of significant participation bias towards computer users and those disproportionately interested in the topic.
NTU's public opinion poll, 2005
- See also: Archive of NTU study "Homosexuality in Singapore: Perceptions, Public Opinion, and the Media" (24 January 2011)
Researchers from Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Benjamin H. Detenber, Mark Cenite, Moses K. Y. Ku, Carol P. L. Ong, Hazel Y. Tong and Magdalene L. H. Yeow conducted in public opinion poll in 2005 to gauge Singaporeans’ attitudes toward lesbians and gay men and their tolerance of media portrayals of homosexuality.
- Computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) survey with 1004 Singapore citizens and permanent residents aged 18 and above
- Probability sample using random-digit dialing (RDD)
- Interviews conducted in English, Mandarin and Malay
- Response rate: 61.6%
- Used well-established measures like intrinsic and extrinsic religiosity (Gorsuch & Venable, 1983) and the short form of the Attitudes Towards Lesbians and Gay Men Scale (ATLG; Herek & Capitanio,1995)
- First nationally representative survey on homosexuality in Singapore
- Dependent variables: Attitudes Towards Lesbians and Gay Men (ATLG) and Tolerance of Media Portrayals
- Attitudes were generally negative and tolerance for portrayals low
- negative attitudes 68.6%, positive attitudes 22.9%, neutral 8.5%
- Control variables (age, income, education, gender and marital status)
Significant predictors of ATLG & Tolerance
- Christians & Muslims had significantly more negative attitudes and less tolerance than Buddhists and Freethinkers
- Most people not favorable to homosexuality and its portrayal
- These views prompted by conservatism and religion
- Not much change from five years before
- Research article published in 2007 amid debate over revision of penal code
- Findings cited by both sides during the 377A debate
- Further research needed
Publication in International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 2007
The public opinion poll was written up as an academic research paper entitled, "Singaporeans’ Attitudes toward Lesbians and Gay Men and their Tolerance of Media Portrayals of Homosexuality" and published in the International Journal of Public Opinion Research, Volume 19, Issue 3, Autumn 2007, pages 367–379.
While research on attitudes toward lesbians and gay men and portrayals of them in the media is fairly common in Western countries (e.g. Levina, Waldo & Fitzgerald, 2000; Mazur & Emmers-Sommer, 2002; Riggle, Ellis & Crawford, 1996), little empirical work on these topics has been done in Asia. In recent years homosexuality has become a matter of public discourse and media attention in many Asian countries (Liebhold, 2000). For example, in Singapore there has been public discussion of the ramifications of homosexuals holding positions in the civil service and the merits of pursuing of ‘pink dollars’ (i.e. money spent by gay men and lesbians) in the tourism industry. There has also been interest in revising the censorship guidelines to reflect societal changes in an increasingly globalized media environment (Censorship Review Committee, 2003). Given these developments there is a need to understand the attitudes of Asians toward lesbians and gay men and their tolerance of homosexual-themed media content.
To date, there has not been a nationally representative study conducted in Singapore on attitudes toward homosexuality and tolerance of homosexual content in films. The few studies that have been conducted on the topic lacked depth, objectivity and representativeness (e.g. Lim, 2003; Ministry of Community, Development and Sports, 2001a, 2001b; People Like Us, 2000) and are thus inadequate to inform debate and guide policy recommendations. Therefore, the aim of this study was to document current public opinion in Singapore and to contribute to scholarship on homosexuality in Asia by investigating some of the predictors of attitudes toward lesbians and gay men. In addition to demographic factors, we examined the relationship between attitudes and tolerance and Asian values and religiosity. Asian values have never been examined in the context of attitudes toward homosexuality, and the link between religiosity and attitudes toward gay men and lesbians has been explored only in predominantly Judeo-Christian populations (e.g. Fulton, Gorsuch, & Maynard, 1999; Kirkpatrick, 1993). Thus Singapore, with its diversity of religions and Asian ethnicities, offers a rich and fresh context to study attitudes toward gay men and lesbians.
A review of the literature reveals that people generally hold negative attitudes toward lesbians and gay men (Abraham & Abraham, 1998; Herek & Glunt, 1993; Lieblich & Friedman, 1985; Steffens & Wagner, 2004). These negative attitudes manifest themselves in various ways, from lack of helping behavior (Tsang, 1994) to verbal harassment and outright physical violence (D’Augelli & Rose, 1990). Although negative attitudes toward lesbians and gay men are commonly attributed to the fact that homosexuality runs contrary to the norm of heterosexuality (Eskridge, 1992), researchers have identified a number of predictors of such views, namely authoritarianism, social dominance orientation, traditional gender role attitudes, religiosity, belief of controllability of homosexuality and the extent of contact with homosexuals (Hart, Calvert, & Bainbridge, 1998; Lance, 1987; Newman, 1989; Whitley, 1999; Whitley & Lee, 2000).
The few academic studies that have been done on homosexuality in Asia (e.g. Abraham & Abraham, 1998; Widmer, Treas, & Newcomb, 1998; Wong & Tang, 2004) suggest that people in Asian countries also tend to hold negative attitudes toward lesbians and gay men. However, certain aspects of their research design (e.g. using a single-item attitude measure or non-probability samples) limit the inferences and generalizations that can be made from them. To have a more thorough and robust understanding of public opinion of homosexuality and its portrayal in films, it is necessary to use well established and empirically tested attitude scales and other reliable measures (Herek, 1994; Larsen, Reed, & Hoffman, 1980), as well as probability sampling at the national level. With this as our motivation, the research reported here represents the first systematic and scientific inquiry of its kind conducted in Singapore.
In addition to finding out about attitudes toward lesbians and gay men, we wanted to investigate Singaporean's views of portrayals of homosexuality in films. Film is one of Singapore's most popular and important art forms (Media Development Authority, 2004a; Uhde & Uhde, 2000). However, it is highly regulated and up until recently visual representation of homosexual acts and materials that portray homosexuality as a legitimate and acceptable lifestyle have been banned (Leong, 1997). According to the Censorship Review Committee (CRC), portrayals of homosexuality are allowed in films only if they are deemed ‘nonexploitative’ and nonpromotional; films with overt homosexual themes are allowed only at the Singapore International Film Festival, not for commercial release (Censorship Review Committee, 2003). However, the CRC report (2003) also promised to approach homosexual content with greater flexibility and consideration of context. In line with this promise Singapore recently adopted a revised film classification scheme, developed in part to give viewers more freedom and choices (Media Development Authority, 2004b). As a result, films like Brokeback Mountain can now be screened uncut since they are restricted to adult audiences (i.e. rated R21).
Research indicates that attitudes toward lesbians and gay men are related to religious orientation and degree of religiosity among those with Judeo-Christian beliefs (Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 1992; Batson, Eidelman, Higley, & Russell, 2001). That is, people who are more religious tend to show more prejudice toward outgroups such as homosexuals and racial minorities (Ammerman, 1991; Altemeyer, 1996; Batson & Burris, 1994). One conceptualization identifies two different types of religiosity, intrinsic and extrinsic (Allport & Ross, 1967), and this distinction reveals a more complex relationship between religiosity and prejudice. People with an extrinsic religious orientation see religion as self-serving and as a way to conform to social conventions, while people with an intrinsic religious orientation see religion as the primary driving force in life (Herek, 1987). Scholars have consistently found that people with an intrinsic religious orientation tend to show less racial prejudice than people with an extrinsic religious orientation (Batson & Burris, 1994; Herek, 1987). Intrinsically motivated people use religious teachings to guide them in daily interactions with others, showing love and respect for other human beings, and are less likely to reject or show contempt toward others. Extrinsically motivated people, on the other hand, use religion to find social support and acceptance, and since prejudice often provides similar returns, extrinsically motivated people are more likely to be prejudiced (Allport & Ross, 1967; Herek, 1987).
However, when investigating attitudes toward lesbians and gay men, intrinsic religiosity has been found to be associated with more negative attitudes toward lesbians and gay men than extrinsic religiosity (Herek, 1987; Kirkpatrick, 1993). A possible explanation for the apparent inconsistency between attitudes toward racial groups and lesbians and gay men is that people who demonstrate an intrinsic approach to religion are more willing to admit having antigay attitudes because, in comparison to prejudice toward racial minorities, such attitudes are seen to coincide more closely with their Judeo-Christian teachings (Batson, Schoenrade, & Ventis, 1993).
Although the relationship between religiosity and tolerance of media portrayals of homosexuals has rarely been investigated, we expect it to follow a similar pattern as attitudes towards gays and lesbians (i.e., greater religiosity associated with less tolerance). A study by Anderson, Fakhfakh and Kondylis (1999) offers indirect support of this conjecture. In their survey they found that people who are more religious are more likely to report that the media portray gays and lesbians too positively, and glorify and promote homosexuality. Unfortunately, Anderson et al. (1999) used a single-item measure of religiosity, so any difference in the impact of intrinsic and extrinsic religiosity on tolerance of media portrayals of homosexuality has yet to be explored.
While there has been a lack of empirical studies delineating the relationship between the major world religions (other than Christianity) and attitudes toward lesbians and gay men, scholars and religious leaders have actively engaged in discussions of the topic (e.g. Swidler, 1993; Zwilling, 1992). Without getting into too much detail, it is safe to say that different religions regard homosexuality differently. For instance, in Christianity, the Bible states that homosexual acts are wrong (Fulton et al., 1999). In Islam, some followers claim that the Qur’an states that homosexuality is ‘unnatural’ while others insist that the Qur’an is ambiguous on the position on homosexuality (Helie, 2004). Buddhism appears to have no clear position or even salient mention of homosexuality (Cabezon, 1993). Therefore, our study aims to find out whether the major religious groups in Singapore differ in terms of their attitudes toward lesbians and gay men and their tolerance of media portrayals of homosexuality.
Deeply held beliefs that cut across religions may also be related to attitudes and tolerance of homosexuality. For example, the notion of conformity to norms has been identified as part of the larger construct of Asian Values (Hill, 2000) and seems relevant to this investigation. Although the precise nature of the construct remains somewhat problematic as scholars have not reached a consensus on its definition, validity or relevance, Asian Values are believed to include social harmony, deference to authority, and the importance of family (Anwar, 1996; Freeman, 1996; Lawson, 1996). In their effort to measure the construct, Kim, Atkinson and Yang (1999) found that the conformity to norms factor accounted for the greatest variance of their Asian Values Scale and also had the highest reliability. Since lesbians and gay men are commonly regarded as violators of Asian social norms (Matteson, 1997), conformity to norms is a potential predictor of Singaporeans’ attitudes toward lesbians and gay men.
Demographic variables are among the most commonly investigated predictors of people's attitudes toward lesbians and gay men. Many studies conducted on samples of Western populations have found that attitudes toward lesbians and gay men are associated with gender, age, education and marital status (Hayes, 1995; Herdt, 2001; Jensen, Gambles, & Olsen, 1988). This study examines the same factors, but in an Asian context.
In summary, this study constitutes the first nationally representative survey of Singaporeans’ attitudes toward lesbians and gay men. The findings indicate that intrinsic religiosity, conformity to norms, and marital status predict attitudes toward this minority group. In addition to these three predictors, age and education level also predict one's tolerance of media portrayals of homosexuality. For both criteria, intrinsic religiosity was the strongest predictor, suggesting that psychological factors may be more critical in influencing Singaporean's views of homosexuality than demographic factors.
Sayoni's surveys, 2006 onwards
Starting from 2006, Sayoni, an organisation for Asian queer women, has been conducting a regular survey on queer women living in Singapore, which provides the most detailed statistics available on this population available to date. The full reports are available here. This survey is subject to the same bias-factors s mentioned earlier.
Singapore Polytechnic's survey, 2007
- See also: Archive of TODAY article, "Teens on marriage, homosexuality and pre-marital sex", 18 January 2007
A survey conducted over 2 months in 2007 by the Singapore Polytechnic's School of Business found that half of the 800 young people aged 15-29 polled found homosexuality acceptable,. Containing only one question on homosexuality, the survey respondents were asked if they agreed or disagreed with he statement, "I find homosexuality acceptable."
Lecturer Kwa Lay Ping, who oversaw the survey, was quoted in Today newspaper attributing the youths' liberal views to the use of the Internet. "They're more liberal in their outlook and more accepting of alternative lifestyles, such as homosexuality, and sex before marriage. As they go on the Internet, they're a lot more exposed to more liberal programmes about alternative lifestyles, than youths were in the days before the Internet," said Kwa. A youth quipped in a television interview, "To youths, it's common knowledge that homosexuals exist in Singapore. In fact, if you ask any youth, he'll say that he knows at least one homosexual friend."
NTU's public opinion poll, 2010
- See also: Archive of NTU study "Homosexuality in Singapore: Perceptions, Public Opinion, and the Media" (24 January 2011)
In 2010, researchers from Nanyang Technological University's (NTU) Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Benjamin H. Detenber, Shirley S. Ho, Rachel L. Neo, Shelley Malik, Mark Cenite, conducted a follow-up to their first public opinion poll in 2005 on Singaporeans’ attitudes toward homosexuals. The nationally representative study surveyed 959 Singaporeans and permanent residents aged 18 years or older.
The results showed that personally knowing gay men and lesbians, more than seeing gay characters in films and TV shows, increased positive attitudes and affect acceptance of gay men and lesbians. The findings also revealed a small but significant trend toward greater tolerance of homosexuals in Singapore. Attitudes of Singaporeans and permanent residents toward gays and lesbians, although “sharply polarised and predominantly negative”, had become a little more favourable. When results from both surveys were compared, Singaporeans' attitudes towards homosexuals appear to have shifted more positively.
In 2005, 68.6 percent of respondents expressed negative attitudes, 22.9 percent had positive attitudes and 8.5 percent were neutral. In 2010, 64.5 percent of those surveyed held negative attitudes towards homosexuals, while 25.3 percent expressed positive attitudes and 10.2 percent were neutral. "Taken together, the results show a small but significant trend toward greater tolerance of homosexuals,” said lead researcher Professor Benjamin Detenber in a press release. “Clearly, public opinion is still highly polarised on this issue, but slightly more people are sharing the middle ground in 2010 compared to 2005,” he said.
Attitudes toward lesbians and gay men
- Sex between two men is just plain wrong.
- You think male homosexuals are disgusting.
- Male homosexuality is a natural expression of sexuality in men.
- Sex between two women is just plain wrong.
- You think lesbians are disgusting.
- Female homosexuality is a natural expression of sexuality in women.
Acceptance of homosexuals
To what degree would you accept or not accept:
- A homosexual co-worker.
- A homosexual teacher.
- A homosexual friend.
- A homosexual neighbour.
- A homosexual family member.
The study found that older people tend to have more negative attitudes towards lesbians and gays, as do those with lower levels of education and income. On the other hand, people who feel it is less important to conform to social norms and those with a more Western cultural orientation tend to have less negative attitudes and be more accepting of homosexuals. As the attitude items came from the Attitudes Toward Lesbians and Gay Men (ATLG) Scale, a well established composite measure, respondents were not asked about Section 377A, a law which criminalises sexual relations between men in Singapore.
As was the case in 2005, the 2010 study found that religion was significantly related to attitudes and acceptance. Among the religious groups, freethinkers were the most positive in their attitudes – significantly higher than Christians, Buddhists and Muslims. Irrespective of specific religion, people who were more intrinsically religious – i.e. people who said that religion was integral to their lives – were more likely to have negative attitudes towards homosexuals and were less accepting of them. Interestingly while Christians had the second lowest ATLG (attitudes) scores, they were more accepting of gay men and lesbians than Buddhists and Muslims. The study noted that it was possible for people to hold negative attitudes towards homosexuals but accept gay men and lesbians on a more personal level, whether as co-workers or friends, regardless of whether they perceive homosexuality to be a choice. The researchers suggested that the precise reasons for this could be the subject of future research.
Gay characters in the mass media
Those who had higher interpersonal contact with gay men and lesbians and watched more films and television shows with gay characters were also likely to express more positive attitudes toward gays and lesbians, and to show greater acceptance. The interaction between interpersonal contact and mediated exposure was found to have a significant effect on attitudes, but not on acceptance of gay men and lesbians. Therefore, interpersonal contact was a significant moderator of the relationship between mediated exposure and ATLG, but not acceptance.
Previous studies showed that exposure to gay characters in the media has the most effect on the attitudes of people with little or no interpersonal contact with gay men and lesbians. In contrast, the 2010 study found that viewing gays and lesbians in the media has the strongest effect on the attitudes of people with many personal contacts with gay men and lesbians. The researchers suggested this could be because of the positive correlation between interpersonal contact and media exposure to homosexuals in this sample of Singaporean adults. Alternatively, it could be due to the way in which exposure to homosexuals in the media has been measured. The 2010 study used the total number of films and TV programmes watched, whereas other studies used viewing frequency and scale measurements of para-social relationships between viewers and media characters.
Similar to studies conducted elsewhere, the survey found that Singapore citizens and permanent residents who have a gay or lesbian family member or know someone who is gay are less likely to have negative attitudes and be more accepting. As with other studies, the Singapore survey shows that interpersonal contact appears to have a bigger influence in shaping attitudes and acceptance of homosexuals than mediated exposure to gay characters – i.e. seeing gays and lesbians in films and television programmes – which also predicted less negative attitudes and greater acceptance. The study noted: “… people who had some homosexual personal contacts had significantly more positive attitudes than those with no homosexual personal contacts, and people with more homosexual personal contacts had significantly more positive attitudes than those with few personal contacts. Similarly, greater interpersonal contact is likely to affect acceptance.”
The research team planned to conduct a similar survey in 2015.
- New survey done to track changes in public opinion since 2005 and expand theoretical framework
- ATLG versus acceptance
Tested the following predictors of ATLG and acceptance of homosexuals:
Predictors tested in 2005
- Conformity to norms
- Intrinsic and extrinsic religiosity
Additional predictors introduced in the 2010 study
- Asian & Western orientation
- Homosexuality as a choice
- Interpersonal contact
- Mediated exposure
Study also gauged public support for censorship of films with homosexual themes
Examined the following as predictors of support for censorship
- Conformity to norms
- Intrinsic and extrinsic religiosity
- Asian & Western orientation
- Interpersonal contact
- Media consumption
- Third person effect variables i.e., perceived effects on self, others, self-other perceptual gap
- CATI survey with 959 Singapore citizens and permanent residents aged 18 and above
- Probability sampling (RDD) and survey conducted in 3 languages
- Response rate: 36.6%
- Established survey measures used, as well as new measures
Summary and interpretation of ATLG findings
- Slight change in ATLG from 2005 to 2010 contingent on demographic factors
- Intrinsic religiosity a much better predictor of ATLG and acceptance than extrinsic religiosity
- Western orientation as significant predictor of ATLG and acceptance
- Homosexuality may be regarded as a “Western import” in Singapore
- Differences in ATLG scores and levels of acceptance amongst the religious groups suggests loose linkage
- Muslims had the most negative attitudes towards gay men and lesbians
- Freethinkers were the most accepting of gay men and lesbians
- Religion, attitudes and acceptance
- Significant interaction between mediated exposure and interpersonal contact
- Association between mediated exposure, interpersonal contact and attitudes
Summary and interpretation of censorship findings
- Intrinsic but not extrinsic religiosity predicts support for censorship
- People with higher levels of Asian orientation may be more conservative & prefer to preserve the societal status quo
- Media exposure, parasocial interaction with gay and lesbian characters, as well as attitudes toward these minority groups “are mutually reinforcing”
- Perceived effects on self better predictor of censorship support than perceived effects on others or the perceptual gap
- People seem to be more concerned about their own self-interests than the moral well-being of others
- Perhaps homosexuality is not as noxious as pornography or media violence
- Degree of collectivism may reduce impact of third person perception
Publication in Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 2012
Again, the researchers wrote up the findings of the public opinion poll as an academic research paper entitled, "Influence of value predispositions, interpersonal contact, and mediated exposure on public attitudes toward homosexuals in Singapore" and published it in the Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 16(3), pages 181-196 on 27 December 2012.
This national survey tracks changes in Singaporeans‘ attitudes toward lesbians and gay men (ATLG) and examines value predispositions, interpersonal contact, and mediated exposure as predictors of ATLG and acceptance of homosexuals. The study replicates and extends research done previously and addresses temporal shifts in values and views. Findings indicate that the relatively small positive change in ATLG from 2005 to 2010 was mainly due to values and demographic factors. The addition of several new predictive variables increased the variance explained for why people hold certain ATLG and their acceptance. Conformity to norms, intrinsic religiosity, Western orientation, interpersonal contact, and mediated exposure were significantly associated with both ATLG and acceptance of homosexuals. Perception of homosexuality as a choice was significantly associated with ATLG but not with acceptance of homosexuals. Asian orientation and extrinsic religiosity showed no significant association with either dependent variable. The findings are discussed in the context of a multi-cultural Asian society and future directions for research.
In sum, the findings from this study show that a wide range of demographic and psychographic variables can influence ATLG and acceptance of homosexuals. With the addition of new variables in this study, the amount of variance explained was double the variance explained in Detenber et al.'s study (2007). Hence, by using more sophisticated regression models, this study provides a more holistic explanation of the factors which shape ATLG and acceptance of homosexuals. It is possible that this study can inform policy debate with its finding that Singaporeans are still very conservative on this issue and generally hold negative attitudes toward gay men and lesbians. Although there has been only a very modest positive shift in ATLG from 2005 to 2010, it is important to keep tracking changes in attitudes toward gay men and lesbians as public debate on issues pertaining to homosexuality continues to increase in Singapore. Given that Singapore has become more Westernized (Wilson, 2000) and that media content with homosexual themes is increasingly available on the Internet (Lim, 2004) and in local cinemas (Ong, 2006), it seems possible that there will be a more significant shift in attitudes toward gay men and lesbians over time.
A study by the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) published in the Asian Journal of Social Psychology in December 2012 showed that positive attitudes toward homosexuals were becoming more common in Singapore as more gay people came out,. A nationally representative survey found that in 2005, 68.6% of adults had negative attitudes toward gay people, while 22.9% had positive views and 8.5% were neutral. By 2010, fewer adults in Singapore had negative attitudes toward homosexuals (64.5%), while more expressed positive attitudes (25.3%) or were neutral (10.2%).
Researchers found that older people and those with lower levels of education and income tended to be less accepting of gay people. Meanwhile, those with a more Western cultural orientation and those who did not greatly value conforming to social norms tended to be more accepting of homosexuals. Singaporean citizens and residents with gay or lesbian family members, friends, or coworkers were also less likely to have negative attitudes about homosexuals, and those who watched more films and television shows with gay characters were more likely to express positive attitudes toward gay people.
"As more Singaporeans come into contact with gay people and with the rising availability of films and television programmes with gay characters via cable television, local cinemas and the Internet, it seems possible that there will be a more significant shift in attitudes towards gays and lesbians over time," researcher Shirley Ho. Various ideas had been put forth to explain prejudice against gay people, with one line of research finding that children with low intelligence were more likely to hold prejudiced attitudes as adults. That link between low IQ and prejudice, including low acceptance of homosexuals, may be explained by the fact that low-intelligence adults tended to gravitate toward socially conservative ideologies, which stressed hierarchy and resistance to change — attitudes that could contribute to prejudice.
People Like Us' LGBT electorate survey, 2010
On 8 September 2010, People Like Us announced that it was conducting the first ever poll of LGBT Singaporeans on what would influence their votes the General Elections widely expected in the first half of 2011. It was advertised on the Singapore gay news list (SiGNeL) thus:
"Do lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender voters have exactly the same concerns as the general public? Are there concerns that are important to the community, yet are neglected by political parties vying for votes?
A general election is widely expected in Singapore sometime in the next 6 - 12 months. LGBT citizens will have as much a chance to express their wishes through their vote as other citizens.
A cursory glance at various media will indicate that leading issues currently include the economy, housing prices and polices, transport, foreign workers and immigration. These tend to hog the headlines because many people have anxieties or strong views about them.
There is, however, the risk that these issues, because of their wide following, are crowding out the concerns of other sections of the population. There is always the tendency for the non-LGBT majority to universalise their concerns as everybody’s concerns, and to dismiss issues unimportant to them as issues unimportant to everybody. Throughout history, it is a common conceit of the privileged or the majority.
What People Like Us would like to know is to what extent Singaporean LGBT voters share these aforementioned concerns, as well as what other concerns relevant to their lives they might have. What are their priorities going into this election?
We encourage all Singaporean LGBT voters and friends to participate in a survey: What concerns LGBT voters? It’s an online, anonymous survey, to gauge the community’s priorities. It consists of only 10 questions and should take no more than 3 -4 minutes of your time.
The survey will be kept open till at least 10 October 2010.
We recognise that no online poll can be rigourously accurate. Nonetheless, we are hoping that with wide participation, the thrust of the LGBT community’s concerns will be apparent even if the exact figures should be treated with caution.
Results will be publicised on this site and shared with other LGBT and mainstream media, after we have done an analysis.
To go to the survey:
The poll, which counted 1003 valid responses, was conducted over the Internet from 7 September to 12 October 2010 and advertised on gay portals including Fridae.com. Of a total of 1156 responses, 143 responses were excluded because they did not come from Singapore citizens while another 10 were excluded as they said they were heterosexual. Survey respondents were asked to select what they felt are their top three issues from among 12, of which 4 were LGBT-related and 8 non-LGBT-related. For that specific question, an additional 41 respondents, who marked more than 3 issues, were disqualified.
LGBT Singaporeans cited the repeal of Section 377A, legal recognition of same-sex relationships and job discrimination as their top three concerns.
Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sexual relations between men, continued to dominate gay discourse in Singapore and was the leading issue of concern for nearly 1 in 2 (48.5%) LGBT citizens. While readers might be surprised to see that slightly more than half did not consider Section 377A to be one of the top issues, PLU spokesperson Alex Au said it considered it to be a “high”%age for a law that was largely not enforced for sex acts in private (even though technically, it applied) and compared to “possibly more pressing issues like jobs or housing affordability.” He added: “If we look at the two "dignity" issues together – repeal of 377A and discriminatory censorship – 59.4% of 962 LGBT responses listed at least one of these two among their top three. This is despite the fact that the law is in practice not used against private consensual relationships, nor does it apply to lesbians, and when censorship can be circumvented through the Internet. That is to say, the impact is not immediate on their daily lives. Yet nearly 60% are thinking beyond their immediate personal lives and can see how important these issues are in the construction of a systemic bias against them.”
Legal recognition of same-sex relationships and job discrimination
In the second position was legal recognition of same-sex relationships with 42.2% naming this as among their top three concerns. In third place was job discrimination against LGBT persons with 38.5%. Au said they did not expect the issue of job discrimination to be among the top issues of concern to gay men and lesbians although the organisation was aware that male-to-female transgenders considered it their number one issue. “The survey shows that in fact it is a grievance that is very significant for all LGBTs. Gay men and lesbians may not be voicing it as often as transgenders but it seems they suffer from it and are therefore sensitive to it, all the time. It's a silent cancer that makes real, on a livelihood question and on a very personal level, the inequality LGBTs face every day of their lives.” Au felt the issue was linked to and reinforced by a state policy of keeping Section 377A and heavy censorship of positive gay role models in the media which reinforces prejudice. “State policy legitimises private sector discrimination. Employers think: if the state does it, then it must be the right thing to do.” While a number of multi-national companies had implemented non-discrimination policies on the basis of sexual orientation among other characteristics in their Singapore operations, Singapore did not have any laws against workplace discrimination on any basis of sexual orientation, gender expression, race, gender, or any other characteristics.
- See also: Singapore gay censorship
Censorship of LGBT themes and characters in the media – the fourth LGBT-related issue presented – was only considered by one in four respondents (25.4%) to be among their top three issues. TV programmes that “advocate” or “promote” homosexuality are routinely censored. During the 2009 Oscar awards broadcast, speeches by winners Dustin Lance Black and Sean Penn who spoke about discrimination against gays and lesbians were snipped. In 2008, MediaCorp was fined S$15,000 (US$10,800) by the Media Development Authority (MDA) for broadcasting an episode of a home and decor reality TV show that featured a same-sex couple and their adopted child. On the same day of MDA’s announcement, a 3-minute segment of the Ellen DeGeneres Show during which the host condemned homophobia and spoke about a fatal shooting of a 15-year-old gay student in school, was censored on MediaCorp's Channel 5.
Economic growth and job creation, and justice and civil liberties
The two highest ranked non-LGBT related issues were economic growth and job creation (32.2%) and justice and civil liberties (26.8%). Justice and civil liberties was thought to be the most important among the 8 non-gay-related issues for consideration with 77.6% of respondents considering it very important closely followed by healthcare and eldercare (70.5%), and economic growth and job creation (68.5%), and housing issues (67.2%). The report noted: “They seem to feel strongest about issues of justice and civil rights. What is not clear (because the survey design did not anticipate that this would show up so strongly) is whether (a) this arises from a dissatisfaction with authoritarianism and curtailment of civil rights generally, not distinct from that felt by many heterosexual citizens, or whether (b) this opinion is heightened by the particular grievances they have as bi- and homosexual citizens, with their gender and sexual expression regularly in conflict with state and social controls.”
Estimate of LGBT electorate size
According to the Elections Department website, there were altogether some 2.3 million electors on the electoral registers in 2010. LGBTs were estimated to account for 3 to 5% of the electorate which would number between 70,000 to 115,000. The electorate size of the 9 Single Member Constituencies ranged from 17, 170 to 35,789 and the 14 Group Representation Constituencies ranged from 96, 723 to 200,985.
A closer look at repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code, censorship of LGBT themes and characters in media, job discrimination against LGBT persons, and the lack of legal recognition for same-sex relationships
For each of the four gay-related issues (above) presented, respondents were asked if each issue was “very important”, “somewhat important” or “not important” to them in deciding which party to vote for.
Excerpt from report published by PLU:
Over 90% of respondents felt that a political party’s position on the repeal of the law was “very” or “somewhat” important to them. The males felt more strongly about this than females, with 63% of the former saying “very” and 45% of the latter saying likewise. This is not surprising as the law targets males, though it has spillover effects e.g. reinforcing stigma and discrimination against lesbians. Male and female opinion about censorship were nearly identical. About 60% said a party’s position on this was “very important” in deciding their vote; about 35% it would be “somewhat important”. Respondents felt most strongly over the issue of job discrimination. 84% of males and 90% of females said a party’s position on this was “very important” in their decision. Less than 2% of respondents felt this was “not important”. The gender divide showed up again on the question of legal recognition of same-sex relationships. 74% of females, but only 57% of males felt it was “very important” for deciding which party to support. This correlates with the higher%age of women in relationships.
Oogachaga's survey on homophobia & transphobia, 2012
In March 2012, Oogachaga conducted a survey on homophobia and transphobia which resulted in a publication entitled "Impact of Homophobia and Transphobia on LGBTQ individuals in Singapore". It was the first Singapore-based survey carried out to understand the possible links between homophobic / transphobic experiences, and behavioural issues and suicidal ideation in the LGBTQ community. The survey received overwhelming support with more than 450 completed responses.
60.2% of respondents had had experiences with sexual orientation and/or gender identity (SOGI)-based abuse and discrimination. Transgender females had the highest incidence rate (94.4%), followed by males (62.5%). The most common forms of abuse or discrimination faced by LGBTQ individuals were homophobic jokes and being called derogatory names. Most respondents had experienced SOGI-based abuse and discrimination in schools and from the general heterosexual population. LGBTQ individuals who had experiences with SOGI-based abuse and discrimination reported a significantly higher incidence rate of self-reported behavioural issues. LGBTQ individuals who had experiences with SOGI-based abuse and discrimination, reported a significantly higher incidence rate of having suicidal thoughts or attempts.
National LGBT Census 2013
The National LGBT Census 2013, the first of its kind to be conducted in Singapore, was a collaborative effort between Pink Dot Sg, Sayoni, and Oogachaga - three LGBTQ-affirmative non-profit volunteer groups in Singapore. The research team comprised personnel from the groups, as well as independent volunteers. Each of the organisations involved was already conducting its own studies with Sayoni’s National Survey of Queer Women, Oogachaga's survey on health and discrimination and Pink Dot SG's post-campaign surveys. Jean Chong of Sayoni said, “The findings gathered from this census will also complement our advocacy work whilst supplementing publications, such as Sayoni’s CEDAW shadow report.” Oogachaga centre manager Bryan Choong added: “This study will provide us with information about the community, which we can use in programme planning. We hope to also share this with other social service organisations, so that they can be better equipped to work with their LGBTQ clients.” The organisers said they hoped to get 3,000 responses in order to be able to run meaningful statistical analyses within each of the sub-groups.
With a common goal to understanding the everyday experiences of LGBTQ people in Singapore, the census, which was more of a survey, covered a range of issues, from health, housing, education, employment, friendships, family life and needs, to thoughts on citizenship. Anyone from or currently residing in Singapore, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity was welcome to participate in the survey which ran from mid-May 2013 to 15 July 2013. Responses were treated as voluntary and anonymous. No attempt was be made to identify individuals.
The questionnaire contained 54 questions and took about 30 minutes of participants' time. There were no correct or wrong answers, but respondents are urged to answer all questions honestly. Its objective was to understand the current health, housing, family, employment and schooling conditions and needs of the LGBT community. Its key purpose was to “narrow the knowledge gaps on the LGBTQ community in Singapore” and inform civil society groups, public and private organisations, as well as the public at large. “While there are a number of studies that highlight the views of society at large towards LGBTQ individuals, the role of religion on such views, as well as LGBTQ representations on media, there is, at present, relatively little information on the general profile of LGBTQ individuals in Singapore,” said the spokesperson for the survey. "The data collected will shed light on the community so that “decisions, private or public, may be informed more by data, less through stereotypes.” Pink Dot’s Paerin Choa said the study was significant as it marked the community’s first attempt to measure the well-being of LGBTQ individuals in Singapore. “We hope, through initiatives like this, to understand how we can serve our community better, and in so doing, endear more LGBT Singaporeans to this place that we call home,” he added. Apart from being a useful resource for local LGBT-affirmative NGOs to plan for the community, the findings will generate greater awareness to improve the day-to-day experiences of LGBT people amongst both public and private institutions in Singapore.
The researchers could be contacted at: http://sogiresearch.blogspot.com/p/contact-us.html
IPS survey, 2013
In 2013, the results of a government-commissioned survey conducted from December 2012 to January 2013 by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) as part of the Our Singapore Conversation, a government-led initiative, were released. According to the IPS, a think-tank within the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, the sample was demographically representative of the national population in terms of age, gender and ethnicity.
Some 26% of 4,000 Singaporeans polled said they were accepting of “gay lifestyles” while 27% were neutral and 47% disagreed with the statement. The results further showed that more educated and younger Singaporeans were comparatively more accepting. The issue of same-sex marriage garnered less support with 21% being supportive, 24% neutral and 55% disagreeing. The two questions were asked as part of the Our Singapore Conversation Survey, a government-led project to "get a snapshot of Singaporeans’ priorities, values and preferences".
Figure 14: Preference between rejecting vs accepting gay lifestyles. Survey question: "I would prefer that society rejects gay lifestyles" vs "I would prefer that society accepts gay lifestyles"
Figure 15: Preference between rejecting vs accepting same-sex marriage. Survey question: "I would prefer that society rejects same-sex marriages" vs "I would prefer that society accepts same-sex marriages"
While the figures did not come as a surprise, members of Singapore’s LGBT community called into question the use of the phrase “gay lifestyles” in the survey. Media commentator Kirsten Han who was clearly outraged by the use of the term wrote on her blog: “What, exactly, is the 'gay lifestyle'? Do we honestly believe such a thing exists? The idea of the ‘gay lifestyle’ is nothing but a huge, steaming plate of bullshit served up by people who have made little-to-no effort to understand those different from them. And we need to get rid of this rubbish NOW.” She added: "When we stop thinking of it as a ‘gay lifestyle’ and start seeing it for what it is - i.e. people who are being judged and discriminated against based on who they love - then we have a better shot at relating to one another, understanding one another and accepting one another."
Nei, who wrote a column for Sayoni, a queer women’s advocacy group, said: “'Gay lifestyle' implies choice and ease of change. No matter how important a role nature or nurture play in being gay, it's not something we just stop being. Being queer is an important part of who we are and is closely tied to crucial, positive human feelings such as love and affection as well as sex. Referring to it as a lifestyle implicitly rejects queer people, and if the survey said this, I’d like to know where the researchers were coming from in asking the question.”
Senior Research Fellow Dr Leong Chan Hoong, one of the survey's researchers from the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), conceded that on hindsight, the survey could have used a more "nuanced and calibrated" term. He clarified that the survey did not eleborate on the contentious term and explained that the questions throughout the survey were designed to allow respondents to interpret the question "using a lens they are normally used to." Leong further highlighted that the “landscape (with regard to gay acceptance) is evolving” and that just over one in two Singaporeans polled are accepting or at least indifferent to the issue.
Pink Dot SG said it rejected the use of the term “gay lifestyle” in the media and in academic research. “A person’s sexual identity cannot be described as merely a lifestyle because it reduces him or her down to one shallow facet of their identity. The term also does not allow for the diversity that exists between lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals nor the similarities between LGBT and straight communities. There is no such thing as a ‘gay lifestyle’ because there is no one sameness that permeates through all LGBT people in Singapore or across the world,” Pink Dot said in a statement. It added, “When used in research, it creates a bias because it predetermines for unfamiliar interviewees that sexuality is a choice rather than an innate characteristic.”
IPS survey, 2014
Another survey conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) from late 2013 to early 2014 revealed that Singapore remained a largely conservative society with regard to certain social issues such as extramarital sex, living with a partner before marriage, divorce and gambling. When it came to LGBT issues, 78.2% felt that sexual relations between two adults of the same sex was always or almost always wrong. Regarding adoption of children by gay couples, respondents who found it always or almost always wrong fell to 61.1%. 72.9% found gay marriage always or in certain cases wrong while 15.7% thought it was not. It surprised many in the LGBT community to discover that Singaporeans were less opposed to gay adoption and gay marriage than to gay sex.
ILGA-RIWI Global Attitudes Survey on sexual, gender and sex minorities, 2017
On 31 October 2017, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) and RIWI Corp. published their 2017 report on the ILGA-RIWI Global Attitudes Survey on sexual, gender and sex minorities, in partnership with Viacom, Logo and SAGE,. The annual survey was first established in 2016 to gather credible data on public attitudes to issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex characteristics on every continent to assist advocates, researchers and policy-makers in their work. In 2017, the survey reached around 116,000 online individuals in 77 countries, further establishing itself as the largest investigation about LGBT communities ever conducted.
The survey showed that Singapore's belief in equal rights for gay couples was higher than that of Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, China and even Taiwan. Participants were posed the statement: "Equal rights and protections should be applied to everyone, including people who are romantically or sexually attracted to people of the same sex"
S'pore LGBT workforce audit, 2018
Diversity in the workplace is a topic that is growing in importance on a global scale, with many multinational corporations like Google leading the way with its progressive policies. In 2018, Achieve Group pioneered the first study in Singapore to investigate how open and accepting local companies were towards LGBT talent in the workplace.
The survey examined the following:
- The importance of diversity, inclusion and tolerance in the workplace
- Singapore companies’ perspective of the importance of positioning themselves as an ‘Equal opportunity employer’
- The proportion of Singapore companies that held discriminatory practices/policies that impacted the corporate advancement/promotion of LGBT individuals in the workplace
- Perspective of HR and corporate leaders on whether a gay employee’s openness about his/her sexual orientation in the workplace could help create more authenticity, integrity and trust within the team, with a view of ultimately improving teamwork and productivity
- Perceived acceptance of openly gay colleagues in the workplace
The first 'Singapore LGBT Workforce Audit 2018’ polled close to 500 human resource professionals and corporate leaders in Singapore. The companies surveyed comprised a mix of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well as multinational corporations (MNCs) across a diverse cross-section of industries including Banking & Finance; Healthcare & Pharmaceutical; Information & Communications Technology; Hospitality, Retail & F&B; Shipping & Logistics; Industrial Manufacturing & Engineering; Oil & Gas; Professional Services and Property & Construction. The survey was conducted over the phone and via an online questionnaire, over a two-week period in June 2018.
1. Importance of 'Equal opportunity employer’ branding
All the Singapore companies surveyed were asked how important it was for their organisation to be regarded as an 'Equal Opportunity Employer’. 57% stated that it was 'Very important’, 25% said it was 'Fairly important’, 16% were 'Neutral’ and 2% believed it to be 'Not important at all’.
2. ‘Equal employment opportunity’ (EEO) corporate policy
The survey polled companies on whether they currently had an official Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy in place. Half (50%) did not have an existing EEO policy while 67% did. 3% were not sure if such a policy existed within their organisation.
3. Link between being openly ‘out’ and perceived impact on authenticity, integrity & trustworthiness, and effects on teamwork & productivity
The survey also investigated the link between an LGBT employee being open about his/her sexual orientation in the workplace, and its perceived impact on the authenticity, integrity and trustworthiness of the individual, as well as its effects on teamwork and productivity.
3.1. Perceived impact on authenticity
60% of those surveyed stated that they would perceive an LGBT employee to be more authentic if he/she were open about his/her sexual orientation in the workplace. 30% felt it would not necessarily translate to greater authenticity and 5% were neutral.
3.2. Perceived impact on integrity
51% of those surveyed stated that they would perceive an LGBT employee to have more integrity if he/she were open about his/her sexual orientation in the workplace. 65% felt it would not necessarily translate to higher integrity, and 6% were neutral.
3.3. Perceived impact on trustworthiness
44% of those surveyed stated that they would perceive an LGBT employee to be more trustworthy if he/she were open about his/her sexual orientation in the workplace. 52% felt it would not necessarily translate to higher trustworthiness, and 4% were neutral.
3.4. Perceived impact on teamwork & productivity
51% of those surveyed agreed that an LGBT employee’s openness about his/her same-sex orientation would help improve teamwork and productivity by building a greater sense of openness and trust within the team. 45% felt it would not necessarily translate to improved teamwork and productivity, and 4% were neutral.
4. Impact on corporate advancement/promotion
The majority of Singapore companies polled (86%) stated that if an LGBT employee's same-sex orientation were made known in the workplace, it would not hurt his/her chances of a promotion within the organisation. 13% reported that it would, and 1% were unsure.
5. Acceptance amongst colleagues
The survey also examined whether respondents believed that staff/colleagues would have trouble accepting and working with an openly gay colleague in the workplace. The majority (74%) said ‘No’ while 21% said ‘Yes’. 5% were unsure.
Ipsos survey, 2018
On 10 September 2018, The Straits Times published the results of an online survey by Ipsos Public Affairs, an independent market research company, conducted over a period of four days from end-July to early August 2018 to understand the current social attitudes towards same-sex relationships,. It showed that slightly more than half (55%) of the people in Singapore still supported Section 377A while 12% said they opposed it. 33% of the residents here were more accepting of same-sex relationships than he or she was five years before, while 35% were not.
A total of 750 Singaporean citizens and permanent residents aged 15 to 65 took part in the study. Sentiment varied according to gender, with males more likely to strongly support the law than females. Singapore residents aged 15 to 24 were more likely to oppose the law, while residents aged 55 to 65 were more likely to support it. People here were also asked the extent to which they agreed or disagreed with the statement "I believe that Singaporeans should be able to participate in same-sex relationships". 28% agreed with the statement, while 38% did not.
Ipsos said the findings indicated that attitudes towards the issue of same-sex relationships had changed and were likely to continue to change, albeit at a slow pace. This change was attributed to perceptions of shifts in Singapore's social norms with respect to same-sex relationships, increased conversations on social media and more direct exposure to same-sex relationships. Ipsos associate research director Robert McPhedran said: "This research indicates that the normative values of Singaporeans with respect to LGBTQ issues are gradually shifting. As has occurred in other countries globally, increased dialogue regarding same-sex relationships has contributed to higher acceptance among Singaporeans. This is particularly the case for the younger generation. Nonetheless, as PM Lee has previously noted, a social consensus remains far from being reached."
A 2014 survey of more than 4,000 Singapore residents conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies similarly found that people here were largely conservative. In the study, 78.2% of respondents said that same-sex relationships were wrong, while 72.9% were not in favour of gay marriage.
Blackbox Research survey, 2018
Market research consultancy Blackbox Research conducted a poll commissioned by Yahoo! News Singapore from 12 to 19 October 2018 regarding attitudes towards anti-gay laws using a sample size of 1000 Singaporeans and permanent residents.
One of the questions posed in the survey was: “Repealing Section 377A would lead to the breakdown of the family unit in Singapore. Do you agree?” 36% strongly agreed or agreed with the statement while some 28% strongly disagreed or disagreed with it. The remaining 36% of respondents were neutral on the issue. By age group, fewer respondents aged 15-24 years old agreed with the statement, compared with those from the older age groups. Only 25% from the age group strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, followed by 35% who were neutral and 40% who strongly disagreed or disagreed with it. Among those aged 50 years and above, 41% agreed that the removal of the law would be detrimental to the Singapore family unit. About 33% of the respondents in the age group were neutral on the statement and 26% strongly disagreed or disagreed with it.
Over three in 10 Singapore residents agreed that the absence of a law criminalising sex between women was harmful to society. Of the other respondents, about 26% strongly disagreed or disagreed with the statement, while 41% were neutral. Among the respondents by gender, more males strongly agreed or agreed with the statement at 35%, compared with 32% of females. The proportions of males and females who were neutral on the statement were 40 and 41%, respectively. The proportions of males and females who strong disagreed or disagreed with the statement were 25 and 27%, respectively. The proportions of respondents who strongly agreed or agreed with the statement were somewhat consistent across all age groups: 31% (15-24 years old), 35% (25-34 years old), 31% (35-49 years old) and 35% (50 years old and above). Among those who strongly disagreed or disagreed with the statement, the proportions were 34% (15-24 years old), 27% (25-34 years old), 24% (35-49 years old) and 25% (50 years old and above). The proportions who were neutral were 34% (15-24 years old), 38% (25-34 years old), 45% (35-49 years old) and 41% (50 years old and above).
More than half of Singapore residents strongly agreed or agreed that religious views and opinions should not influence Singapore’s laws. Of the other respondents, about 20% strongly disagreed or disagreed with the statement, while 29% were neutral. By age group, the biggest proportion of respondents who strongly agreed or agreed with the statement was 54% among those who were 50 years old and above, followed by 52% (15-24 years old), 49% (25-34 years old) and 47% (35-49 years old). Among those who strongly disagreed or disagreed with the statement, the proportions were 25% (15-24 years old), 20% (25-34 years old), 17% (35-49 years old) and 21% (50 years old and above). The proportions who were neutral were 23% (15-24 years old), 31% (25-34 years old), 36% (35-49 years old) and 25% (50 years old and above). By gender, more males strongly agreed or agreed with the statement at 52%, compared with 49% of females. The proportions of males and females who were neutral on the statement were 28 and 31%, respectively. The proportions of males and females who strong disagreed or disagreed with the statement were the same at 20%.
Another question posed was: “Singapore should keep Section 377A even if it is not enforced. Do you agree?” Of the 1,000 respondents, 42% strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, with 19% strongly disagreeing or disagreeing. The remaining 40% expressed a neutral stance on the issue. The results were largely consistent across male and female respondents. The proportions of male and female respondents who strongly agreed or agreed with the statement were 41% and 42%, respectively. The proportions of males and females who strongly disagreed or disagreed with the statement were 21 and 17%, respectively, while the remaining 38% of males and 41% of females were neutral on the issue. By age group, fewer respondents aged 15-24 years old strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, compared with those from the older age groups. Only 28% from the age group strongly agreed or agreed with the statement, compared with 41% (25-34 years old), 38% (35-49 years old) and 48% (50 years old and above). Among those who strongly disagreed or disagreed with the statement, the proportions were 27% (15-24 years old), 22% (25-34 years old), 19% (35-49 years old) and 15% (50 years old and above). The proportions who were neutral were 45% (15-24 years old), 38% (25-34 years old), 43% (35-49 years old) and 37% (50 years old and above).
YouGov poll, 2019
Research published by YouGov in January 2019 showed that one in three (34%) Singaporeans supported same-sex civil partnerships while four in ten (43%) opposed it, with stances on the issue differing amongst age groups, education level and religious position,. The remaining 23% preferred not to say. The results were based on 1,033 Singaporeans surveyed on YouGov Omnibus.
A same-sex civil partnership was defined as a legally recognised arrangement similar to marriage, created primarily as a means to provide recognition in law for same-sex couples. Civil unions grant most or all of the rights of marriage except the title itself.
Younger Singaporeans (those aged 18 to 34) were more likely to support same-sex civil partnerships than older Singaporeans (those aged 55 and over). Half (48%) of younger Singaporeans supported same-sex civil partnerships as opposed to a quarter (22%) of older Singaporeans. Similarly, four in ten (41%) university degree holders agree with changing the law, compared to 26% of those without a degree.
Other factors also shaped support or opposition to the measure. Out of the 6% of Singaporeans that identify as LGBT, seven in ten (69%) supported same-sex civil partnerships. Additionally, two in five (42%) Singaporeans knew someone in a same-sex relationship, and one in six (16%) knew someone in a same-sex civil partnership. Those who knew someone in either were far more likely to support same-sex civil partnerships (51%).
Among those who considered themselves “very much” religious, less than one in five (17%) supported legalising same-sex civil partnerships. By contrast, half (51%) of those who considered themselves “not at all” religious backed the measure.
Jake Gammon, Head of YouGov Omnibus in APAC commented: “While there is talk of Thailand potentially preparing to recognise same-sex civil partnerships, this data shows that Singaporeans are clearly split on this issue. Our research finds that divisions come along education and age lines. Younger, more educated people are more likely to favour recognising and legalising same sex civil partnerships and those who are older and less educated being more likely to be opposed.”
IPS survey, 2019
A paper published by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) in early 2019 showed “distinct shifts” in attitudes, especially among the young, towards gay sex and gay marriage over the past 5 years. The IPS canvassed views from 4,015 Singaporeans and permanent residents from August 2018 to January 2019 on issues spanning their racial and religious identity, as well as their attitudes towards social and political issues. Thestudy drew comparisons between the latest survey findings and those of the first part, conducted in 2013.
For instance, 11.4% of respondents to the IPS' latest survey felt that sexual relations between two same-sex adults were not wrong at all. This was more than double the figure in 2013 (5.6%). Conversely, 50.4% of Singaporeans in the latest survey said gay sex was always wrong, down from 61.6% in 2013. Singaporeans were also more welcoming of gay marriage, with 16.4% saying in the latest study that it was not wrong at all, compared with just 8.4% in 2013. And 48.5% said gay marriage was always wrong, down from 58.8% five years before.
Leonard Lim, one of the paper’s authors (the other co-authors being Dr Mathew Mathews and Shanthini Selvarajan), said that while the survey results pointed to a growing acceptance of gay sex as well as other matters surrounding gay rights, most Singaporeans remain opposed to these issues. “We cannot say for certain when the scales will be tipped in favour of gay rights in Singapore, but if present trends continue, it may not be very long before that takes place,” said Lim, a research associate at IPS, a Singapore-based think-tank.
On the whole, resistance towards homosexuality, including gay sex and gay marriage, registered sharp falls between 2013 and 2018. Sexual relations between two same-sex adults: In 2013, six in 10 respondents (61.6%) felt that such behaviour was always wrong. Last year, that figure dropped to 50.4%. Gay marriage: In 2013, nearly six in 10 Singaporeans (58.8%) felt gay marriage was always wrong, but last year, that figure fell to 48.5%. A gay couple adopting a child: In 2013, 45.9% of Singaporeans felt that this was always wrong. This declined to 41.2% last year. Meanwhile, the proportion of Singaporeans who felt that there was nothing wrong with a gay couple adopting a child rose from 13.2% to 16.8% in the same period.
The eroding opposition to homosexuality was more pronounced among younger Singaporeans than older respondents, the study found. Gay sex: In 2013, nearly half of Singaporeans aged 18 to 25 (47.6%) felt that this was always wrong. In 2018, the figure was nearly halved (25.4%). By contrast, six in 10 Singaporeans above 65 (64.9%) felt gay sex was always wrong. At the other end, the proportion of 18-year-olds to 25-year-olds who felt that gay sex was not wrong at all nearly tripled from 11.6% to 30.2% between 2013 and 2018. As for those above 65, just 3.2% felt that gay sex was not wrong at all, edging up from 1.5% in 2013.
Gay marriage: In 2013, four in 10 Singaporeans aged 18 to 25 (44.2%) believed gay marriage was always wrong. Five years later, just 23.9% of young Singaporeans felt that way. In fact, 42% of those in this group said gay marriage was not wrong at all, more than doubling from 17.1% in 2013. In comparison, only 4.8% of those above 65 felt that there was nothing wrong with gay marriage, up from 4.4% in 2013.
The survey found that those who were better-educated tended to hold more liberal views on homosexuality. Gay sex: About a fifth (18.1%) of those who held bachelor’s or master’s degrees said this was not wrong at all. In contrast, just 6.1% of those who received an education at secondary level or below felt so. Gay marriage: Similarly, 24.4% of degree-holders felt gay marriage was not wrong at all, compared with 9.3% of those who received secondary qualifications and below.
To gauge how each cohort’s views had shifted in five years, the paper’s authors also compared the attitudes of those in each age group - say, between 20 and 24 in 2013 - and their attitudes in 2018, when they would be 25 to 29 years old. Gay sex: In 2013, nearly a fifth (17.8%) of 20-year-olds to 24-year-olds felt that gay sex was not wrong. But in the latest study, over 40% of this same cohort, now aged 25 to 29, felt this way.
Gay marriage: Likewise, in 2013, 24.1% of respondents aged 20 to 24 felt that gay marriage was not wrong. In 2018, the figure doubled to 49% for the same cohort. Older respondents did not register the same marked shift towards more liberal attitudes over the same period. On gay marriage, for instance, 11.4% of 55-year-olds to 59-year-olds believed in 2013 that it was not wrong. Five years later, this figure climbed to 14.7% among this cohort, who was 60 to 64 last year.
Dr Mathews, Lim and Selvarajan said that while most of the respondents remained conservative towards gay marriage and sex, the findings pointed to “significant shifts in acceptance” towards these issues, especially among the young. Their findings comparing the responses in age cohorts from 2013 to 2018 meant that there could be greater acceptance of gay rights in Singapore in future, if present trends continued, they said. “This is because increasingly larger proportions of younger Singaporeans could view gay sex and gay marriage as not wrong, even as the older respondents are slower in accepting issues surrounding gay rights,” they added. Youths, they noted, had given the most support to the growing acceptance of the needs of LGBTQ individuals. This could possibly be because of increased activism among millennials especially when it came to human rights and gay rights, for instance.
The authors noted that the Government had on a few occasions said that it would consider the majority’s views on issues such as the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code, which criminalises sex between men. “While the majority of Singaporeans remain conservative towards gay rights, if the trend towards more liberal attitudes among the young continues, certain social policies will have to inevitably be relooked and re-evaluated,” they predicted. Lim said that the changing attitudes indicated the need for continued regular large-scale surveys to discern sentiments on these issues and track evolving trends that can inform policymaking.
NUS MSM study, 2019
In a report published on 9 May 2019, researchers from the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health estimated that 210,000 men in Singapore had sex with other men (MSM) and that they could face a concentrated epidemic of HIV infection,. The figure was more than double an earlier, less rigorous estimate of 90,000 men. It marked the first time researchers had estimated the number of people in groups in Singapore who were at risk of HIV infection. The report provided the first empirical estimates of these communities and was funded by the Health Promotion Board and the Singapore Population Health Improvement Centre.
Prior to this, Singapore did not have a systematic approach to collecting data on the size of these key populations at risk of HIV infection. Not knowing these numbers was an obstacle to treating and stamping out HIV, which the report sought to overcome. The researchers - Alvin Teo, Dr Kiesha Prem, Dr Mark Chen, Dr Adrian Roellin, Associate Professor Wong Mee Lian, Dr Hanh Hao La and Dr Alex Cook - said that the study would aid the effective planning of HIV care, treatment and support. A representative sample of 199 people in Singapore was surveyed from July to August 2017, when they were asked how many people they knew belonging to the hidden population groups. The network scale-up method was then used to arrive at the numbers, where the population sizes of the at-risk groups were estimated from the respondents’ personal network size. The researchers pointed out the significance of the study method, having been done previously in various countries such as Ghana, Iran and Japan to estimate the size of hard-to-reach populations at risk of HIV.
A Health Promotion Board spokesperson said that the findings “should be interpreted with caution” due to limitations of the study such as its sample size, but acknowledged that the estimates “can be useful as one of the inputs for HIV prevention programme, planning, monitoring and evaluation”. Keeping in mind Singapore’s context, the researchers had factored in transmission error and the barrier effect using social acceptance measures and demographics, to derive the estimates — extending previous work that “did not adequately accommodate such information”, they said. Transmission error is where there is the possibility that members of the hidden population groups might not divulge membership to some of their contacts. Additionally, not all respondents had an equal chance of interacting with members of the hidden populations, giving rise to what is termed the barrier effect. Criminalisation of gay sex in Singapore may give rise to transmission error, the researchers said. Section 377A in the penal code “amplifies discrimination against homosexual males, and therefore membership to this group may not always be known to their social contacts, resulting in transmission error,” they said.
Blackbox Research survey, 2019
A Blackbox Research online survey commissioned by Yahoo! News Singapore which was conducted between 13 and 26 June 2019 revealed that more than half of Singaporeans would react negatively if they were to find out that a close family member was LGBTQ,. The 887 Singaporean respondents were replying to questions and statements with LGBTQ themes ranging from Pink Dot SG to legal developments overseas on gay marriage and homosexuality. On the statement that if a family member were to reveal to them that he or she was LGBTQ, 53% of the respondents reacted negatively, with 14% expressing “strongly negative” and 39% having “somewhat negative” reactions. The remaining 47% of the respondents were positive about the statement, comprising 13% with “strongly positive” and 34% with “somewhat positive” reactions.
The proportion of respondents who would react negatively if they were to discover that a colleague was LGBTQ was comparatively lower. When asked about the statement that if a colleague were to reveal to them that he or she was LGBTQ, 46% had a negative reaction while 53% had a positive reaction.
The survey also asked respondents for their reactions to a statement on the recent marriage of Li Huanwu, the grandson of Singapore’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, to his male partner Heng Yirui in South Africa in the presence of their family members on 24 May 2019. About 54% reacted negatively to the statement, while the remaining 46% reacted positively to it.
The survey also showed that an overwhelming proportion of Singaporeans, or 80%, agreed that people in the LGBTQ community still faced discrimination in Singapore. Four in five Singaporeans (80%) strongly or somewhat agreed that such discrimination existed here. They were responding to the question: “Although there are changing local attitudes towards those in the LGBTQ community, some say that those in the LGBTQ community are still discriminated against in Singapore. Do you agree or disagree that anti-LGBTQ discrimination still takes place?”
55% of respondents also said that they strongly or somewhat supported Pink Dot SG. The remaining 45% were opposed to it.
IPS survey on fault lines in S'pore, 2019
A working paper on fault lines in Singapore released by the Institute of Policy Studies on Tuesday, 29 October 2019 found that the majority (6 in 10) of Singaporeans were uncomfortable with religious leaders speaking up on LGBT issues. The respondents to the survey also identified religion and LGBT issues as the fault lines most likely to lead to the polarisation of society. The paper's authors, IPS senior research fellow Mathew Mathews, research associate Melvin Tay and research assistant Shanthini Selvarajan, said that the findings attested to the importance of the government's policy of separating religion and politics. It also highlighted the need for consultative and inclusive policymaking to mitigate polarisation.
Between 2013 and 2018, there had been "steep drops" in opposition towards LGBT issues, the study noted. But divisions along this fault line were likely to deepen, given the role that other social divides such as religion, age and education level played in shaping attitudes towards LGBT issues. Christian respondents were the most likely to be amenable to religious leaders being vocal about LGBT issues. Slightly over half of them said they would be comfortable with it, while the majority of those professing other religions or no religion - between 55 and 71% - said they would feel uncomfortable. Older and less educated respondents were also more likely to indicate discomfort with religious leaders engaging in public discourse on LGBT issues. This could be due to younger and more educated respondents being more inclined towards free speech, the study surmised.
On the potential consequences of managing LGBT issues poorly, younger and more educated respondents were more likely to feel this could result in polarisation, anger against particular communities and falling levels of trust in the Government. Half of those aged 18 to 25, the youngest cohort surveyed, said polarisation and anger were likely consequences, as did more than half of respondents who held a bachelor's degree and above. Just over a third of those aged above 65, and those with secondary education and below, felt the same way. About 27% of the youngest respondents and 28% of degree holders felt that erosion of trust in the Government was likely compared to less than 18% for both the oldest and least educated respondents. This could indicate that LGBT issues were seen as more crucial among younger and more educated respondents, who tended to be more accepting of LGBT rights, the study proposed.
Christian respondents, who were more likely to hold conservative views on gender and sexuality, also indicated the highest levels of concern over all of the potential consequences compared to those of other religious affiliations. This illustrated the significance of LGBT issues to Christians in relation to their faith, the study said.
The divisiveness of LGBT issues also came through in respondents' desired levels of state involvement and public discussion. Younger respondents and those who said they held more liberal views on sexuality were the most likely to want greater government involvement and more public discussion of LGBT issues. "The potential reasons for them wanting more government involvement could be in the form of ensuring equal rights for LGBT people or repealing Section 377A," said Dr Mathews.
Older respondents and those who said they held neutral or more conservative views on sexuality were more likely to feel the current levels of government involvement and public discussion are sufficient. Christians (46%) and Muslims (about 44%) were also more likely to support greater government involvement - but for different reasons. Adherents of monotheistic faiths are less likely to support LGBT rights, and may want state involvement in the form of retaining Section 377A or curtailing the rise of LGBT discourse and events such as the annual pro-LGBT Pink Dot rally, the study said. "They may want government involvement to deal with what might be seen as intrusions on the status quo," said Dr Mathews.
But a sizeable proportion of Muslims also indicated that they wanted less government involvement - 21% of Muslims fell into this category, compared to just 12.6% of Christians and 18.1% of respondents overall. This implied that within the Muslim community, there were significant differences in views on whether LGBT issues should fall within the ambit of governance and policy, the study pointed out.
Aim of study
Various incidents in Singapore in contemporary times have highlighted the divisive nature of five key issues: race, religion, immigration, class, and LGBT matters. Just in 2019 alone, the NETS-Preetipls incident, censure of foreign Christian and Muslim preachers for promulgating inflammatory content, the JP Morgan condominium resident episode, and continued debates on the repeal of Section 377A have dominated local media headlines. These challenges are also amplified by their tendency to conflate too.
Against this backdrop, the authors sought to peruse the views of Singapore's population on the implications of mismanaging these five fault lines; as well as on mitigating mechanisms including state intervention and public discourse. Community attitudes towards specific issues associated with key fault lines were also of interest — such as the role of the state; reactions to inflammatory content; and the interplay of religion and LGBT issues.
Abstract of paper
Amidst continued spotlight on social cohesion and divisions in Singapore, this Faultlines in Singapore (FiS) paper examines the views of the local population on the implications of mismanaging across five key issue-spheres including 1) race; 2) religion; 3) class; 4) immigration; and 5) LGBT. It subsequently peruses the views of the population on potential mitigating mechanisms including public discourse and state involvement. More in-depth insights are presented on community attitudes towards specific issues associated with key faultlines — such as the role of the state; reactions to inflammatory content; and the interplay of religion and LGBT issues. Survey responses to new questions in the 2018 IPS RRL study were utilised across this study to facilitate social sensing of the broader community’s key concerns and desired approaches.
In general, this study has found that the majority of Singaporeans are cognizant of the gravity of managing societal faultlines. A large majority anticipates some adverse consequence (to varying extents ranging from suspicion or mistrust, to outright violence) to arise, should the mismanagement of faultlines occur. This awareness highlights that the national education methods in Singapore has nurtured a population that does not take social harmony for granted — Singaporeans recognise the potential for undesirable outcomes even amidst relative social harmony and stability. Perennial issues of race and religion are perceived to be adequately managed by the state; while a sizeable proportion of the population indicated the need for more state involvement and public discourse on issues of immigration, class and LGBT — contemporary faultlines that have come to the fore amidst a more globalised and open socio-economic landscape.
A more in-depth review of community attitudes towards various issues associated with the faultlines reveals the need for further study and focus vis-à-vis: 1) equipping the community to deal with inflammatory content circulated across traditional and contemporary channels such as social media; 2) continued efforts to navigate increasing religiosity and preferences for greater religious freedoms; 3) the efficacy of meritocratic ideals in relation to desires for affirmative action; 4) continued management of resident population’s preferences in relation to immigration policies; 5) the need to address perceived difficulties and sustain the positive impact of education in social mixing; and 6) the disaggregation of religion and politics to prevent the “deepening” and “conflation” of faultlines along religious and sexual identities. In addition, it is noted that a significant number of viewpoints expressed would vary, based on age cohorts and education levels. Broad-brush policy directions are presented alongside these findings.
- Archive of NTU study "Homosexuality in Singapore: Perceptions, Public Opinion, and the Media" (24 January 2011)
- Demographics of sexual orientation
- LGBT demographics of the United States
- Demographics of Singapore
- Singapore HIV surveys
- Samantha Allen, "Why We Need an LGBT Census", Daily Beast, 7 October 2016.
- Feisal Abdul Rahman, "NTU study looks at national attitudes towards homosexuals", NTU News Releases, 9 January 2013.
- Benjamin H. Detenber, Shirley S. Ho, Rachel L. Neo, Shelley Malik, Mark Cenite, "Influence of value predispositions, interpersonal contact, and mediated exposure on public attitudes toward homosexuals in Singapore", Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 27 December 2012,.
- Alex Au, "Singapore creeps towards more acceptance of gay people", Yawning Bread, 11 January 2013.
- Benjamin H. Detenber, Mark Cenite, Moses K. Y. Ku, Carol P. L. Ong, Hazel Y. Tong, Magdalene L. H. Yeow, "Singaporeans’ Attitudes toward Lesbians and Gay Men and their Tolerance of Media Portrayals of Homosexuality", International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 19 (3): 367-379, 2007.
- AnJ, "Singapore Gay-Ready!", Sayoni, 3 November 2007.
- Cassandra Wong, "80% of Singaporeans say LGBTQ community still faces discrimination: survey", Yahoo! News, 16 July 2019.
- Rei Kurohi, "Majority of Singaporeans uncomfortable with religious leaders speaking up on LGBT issues: IPS study", The Straits Times, 29 October 2019.
- Grace Ho & Rei Kurohi, "High awareness of race and religion sensitivities but fault lines on class, immigration and LGBTQ issues: IPS study", The Straits Times, 29 October 2019.
This article was written by Roy Tan.