How Do Pride Marches Affect Attitudes and Tolerance Toward LGBT People?

In the APSA Public Scholarship Program, graduate students in political science produce summaries of new research in the American Political Science Review. This piece, written by Nicole Wells, covers the new article by Phillip M. Ayoub, Occidental College, Douglas Page, Gettysburg College and Sam Whitt, High Point University: “Pride amid Prejudice: The Influence of LGBT+ Rights Activism in a Socially Conservative Society”

The year 2020 was filled with protest, demonstrations and social activism. Protesters rallied on behalf of abortion rights in Argentina, Black lives in the United States, independence and democracy in Hong Kong, and the end of the SARS branch of the police in Nigeria. How can we understand the impact of these movements, protests, and marches? In the American Political Science Review, Philip Ayoub, Douglas Page and Samuel Whitt examined how social movements and marches affect tolerance and political participation by ordinary citizens. The authors studied the effect of LGBT Pride marches on local attitudes in Bosnia. Did the 2019 demonstrations increase social awareness, tolerance and support for LGBT rights?

More than 25 years after the Srebrenica Massacre, Bosnia is working to move away from its violent past and toward a more inclusive society. Parts of the country remain in a state of heightened ethnic nationalism and religiosity. A socially Bosnia conservative ranks high among European countries with an intolerance toward homosexuality. Bosnian ethnonationalism and religiosity, as in many states, emphasizes a fixed heteronormative culture that sees the LGBT community as a threat to the social order. Pride marches provide opportunities for the visibility and legitimacy of LGBT rights. While, a hopeful sign for tolerance and inclusivity, the visibility of LGBT demonstrations can trigger counter protests and opposition to Pride parades.

Ayoub, Page and Whitt, conducted a survey and an experiment to measure the impact of Pride demonstrations on Bosnian tolerance and attitudes. They wanted to know if Pride increased support for LGBT activism when Bosnians are in close proximity to a member of the LGBT community or Pride event, and if Pride could reach communities beyond where the event took place. The authors hypothesized that hosting Pride events may work as a social contagion that spreads political information about LGBT rights. They found that Pride does work as a social contagion but only in the proximity of the event. Support for Pride or LGBT rights does not diffuse very far.

The authors’ study showed that before Pride, 40% of those inside Sarajevo and 65% outside the capital city strongly opposed having a Pride march. After Pride, Sarajevo saw a 10% drop in strong opposition and a 9% increase in strong support LGBT activism. The good news is that Pride had a positive impact in the local proximity. The bad news is that support for Pride did not spread far beyond Sarajevo. The authors found that while advocacy efforts complement Pride in encouraging mobilization this declines when looking nationwide. Meaning that Pride and ethnonationalist attitudes negatively impact mobilization outside of Sarajevo

More than just understanding the attitudes of Bosnians toward Pride, Ayoub, Page, and Whit were interested in how individuals might contribute their financial resources, which would indicate greater support. Participants in the study were given a hypothetical sum of 1,000 Bosnian marks and asked how they would allocate the sum. Nationwide, the pre-Pride sample gave 153 marks but that drops slightly following the Pride event. Pre-Pride Sarajevo residents gave on average 310 more marks than the nationwide sample. Residents of Sarajevo increased their hypothetical allocation on average of 70 marks following Pride.

This study by Ayoub, Page, and Whitt is not only relevant for understanding the year we’ve had but provides important lessons about collective action and the success of social movements.

  • Nicole Wells is a PhD student at George Mason University. Her research focuses on democratization, democratic erosion and authoritarianism in Europe and Eurasia. Prior to becoming a PhD student, Nicole was a Fulbright Scholar where she taught Visual Culture, American Rhetoric, and American National Identity at Transylvania University in Brașov, Romania. When she is not studying, Nicole volunteers as a museum guide with the National Women’s Party and educates the public on the NWP’s role in winning women’s right to vote. She resides in Washington, DC where she is known in her neighborhood as the crazy cat lady that walks her cat on a leash.
  • Article details: American Political Science Review First View , pp. 1 – 19, “Pride amid Prejudice: The Influence of LGBT+ Rights Activism in a Socially Conservative Society”  by Phillip M. Ayoub, Occidental College, Douglas Page, Gettysburg College and Sam Whitt, High Point University:
  • About the APSA Public Scholarship Program.