Support for LGBTI relationships is growing in Europe, yet it still varies considerably between EU member states, according to a new Eurobarometer survey on discrimination in Europe.

When it comes to issues of sexuality, Europeans are ever more tolerant and accepting of ideas beyond the old-school mainstream. This is one of the findings of a new Eurobarometer poll conducted by the market research company Kantar, which surveyed 27,438 people in 28 member states in May 2019 for the European Commission (EC) as part of a larger study on discrimination. (There are excellent infographics on the EC webpage.)

The special report investigated the social acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people across the EU and perceptions of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In northern countries, this openness was greatest: in Sweden and the Netherlands 98% and 97%, respectively, of those polled believe that gay, lesbian, and bisexual people should have the same rights as heterosexual people. In total, across the 28, 76% agree that LGBTI people should have the same rights as heterosexuals.

In Sweden and the Netherlands, as well as Denmark, more respondents than anywhere else say that "same-sex marriages should be allowed throughout Europe." Sweden is the country most accepting of gay rights in general, followed by the Netherlands and Spain.

But this tolerance is regional and uneven – much less pronounced, for example, in Central and Eastern Europe.  In Slovakia, Romania and Croatia, over half of those polled did not feel that LGBTI people should have the same rights (59% in Slovakia). In terms of same-sex marriages, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Latvia brought up the rear. In Bulgaria, just 16% of those surveyed said they agreed that same-sex marriages should be allowed.

The survey attests that that only 55% of respondents would be comfortable if a person of the same sex was in a love relationship with one of their children, with 44% for intersex people, and 43% for transgender people. 

According to the pollsters, though, the picture is much brighter than just four years ago. "People in 22 countries were more likely to agree that same-sex marriage should be allowed throughout Europe than in 2015," they conclude. The greatest scope of attitude change happened in Germany, Poland, the UK, and Portugal.

Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director of the advocacy group ILGA-Europe, commented: “Politicians cannot use the argument that people are not ready for LGBTI rights, because as the Eurobarometer report confirms, a strong majority in the EU are supportive of equal rights. The results also seem to indicate a correlation between higher social acceptance and the existence of laws and policies protecting LGBTI people, showing that laws matter.”