Is football coming out? Anti-gay attitudes, social desirability, and pluralistic ignorance in amateur and professional football

Kanitsar, Georg and Pfaff, Katharina (2024) Is football coming out? Anti-gay attitudes, social desirability, and pluralistic ignorance in amateur and professional football. Social Science Research, 117, 102947, p. 102947. DOI: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2023.102947

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Abstract

Past work consistently points to improved attitudes towards gay athletes and growing support for homosexuality, yet reports of a homophobic climate in amateur and professional football persist. Here, we explore two potential explanations for the prevalence of homophobia in football despite low levels of anti-gay attitudes: social desirability and pluralistic ignorance. We conduct an online survey among a football-affine and socio-demographically diverse sample in the UK. We find that anti-gay attitudes are rare. Importantly, estimates from a list experiment do not differ from the prevalence measured by direct questions, providing no evidence of social desirability. By contrast, second-order beliefs about anti-gay attitudes substantially and consistently exceed attitudes, pointing towards pluralistic ignorance as the most likely explanation. We conclude by emphasizing the need for transparent communication to reduce pluralistic ignorance and correct misperceptions among players, officials and supporters.

Item Type: Article in Academic Journal
Keywords: Anti-gay attitudes; Football; Social norms; Social desirability; Pluralistic ignorance
Funders: Hochschuljubiläumsstifung der Stadt Wien
Research Units: Current Research Groups > Education and Employment
Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2024 12:40
Last Modified: 21 Feb 2024 13:07
DOI: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2023.102947
ISSN: 0049-089X
URI: https://irihs.ihs.ac.at/id/eprint/6901

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